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Glen Cove rehab helps dad get to the church on time

It took 509 days, but Matt Malley made it home in time for his daughter’s first Holy Communion.

Matt Malley thought he had a virus and believed he might be contagious, he was sleeping alone in bed. His wife, Diane, was on the couch in their room and their two kids were asleep in their beds.

During the night, Diane got up to go to the bathroom and she checked on her husband. If she hadn’t, he might not have survived. She found Matt having a seizure and immediately dialed 911.

The ambulance arrived and EMTs worked to save Matt’s life. He had three seizures that night and was later transferred to North Shore University Hospital. It was the start of a 16-month hospital stay that would include brain surgery, bowel resection surgery, several bouts of pneumonia and a prolonged coma.

Celebrating life’s milestones

During his lengthy stay, North Shore University Hospital staff provided support and care for Matt and his entire family, making sure they got to celebrate holidays and special occasions together.

For Christmas, they transformed Matt’s hospital room into a winter wonderland so his children could visit. Staff brought in the unit’s Christmas tree and dressed Matt in Christmas pajamas and a Santa hat. “It was such overwhelming kindness,” says Diane.

Then there was Matt and Diane’s 10th wedding anniversary that summer. Although the Malleys could not go on their originally-planned trip to Aruba, they made it special with a vow renewal. Working with Diane, the Patient and Family Centered Care team organized a wedding party, complete with decorations, flowers and a cake. Matt and Diane’s children served as the flower girl and ring bearer.

After countless setbacks in his health, Matt progressed to the next level of care — rehabilitation.

From hospital bed to church altar

Matt was sent to Northwell’s Wunsch Center for Rehabilitative Therapies at Glen Cove Hospital. Thanks to the generosity of the late Elsie Wunsch, a longtime volunteer of the hospital, Matt could access state-of-the-art rehabilitative services, including the only G-EO robotic assisted gait trainer in New York.

When he initially came to the Wunsch Center, the father, teacher and coach could barely lift his arms. His endurance was low and his balance was poor. Matt had been in the hospital for 16 months. Despite the challenges ahead, Matt had a dream: to attend his daughter’s First Communion in just a few months.

Together, the team of specialists came up with a plan to get Matt to the church on time.

After nearly eight weeks of speech and swallow, respiratory, physical and occupational therapy, Matt was discharged. When he left the hospital, the staff lined the hallway for an emotional clap-out.

A few weeks later, Matt’s dream came true… He stood at the altar with his daughter. 

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