WATERLOO, Iowa --- Jerry Gehrke planted the putter on the floor and slowly rose from his wheelchair.
He took three deliberate steps toward the putting green rug and repeatedly eyed the "hole" at the end of the green. After two practice putts Gehrke made contact with the small white ball and sent it rolling.
As the ball nestled into the hole Gehrke raised his head and his arms in silent victory, never once losing his balance.
This feat, though small to some, would have been nearly impossible for Gehrke just three weeks ago.
"He came to us as almost a total assist on all his daily activities," said Sarah Brown, program director for the new Allen Hospital inpatient rehabilitation department. "Yesterday, he was walking down the hall without his walker and he will probably go home Sunday or Monday."
Allen's inpatient rehab department opened Dec. 1. The floor, which used to house the skilled nursing unit, can accommodate up to 12 patients.
"There is a huge community need," Brown said. The Covenant Medical Center rehab department can accommodate 25 patients, but a spokesperson for the hospital said the floor is on average about two-thirds occupied. Iowa City does not have inpatient rehab, Brown said. "Our patients would go to Iowa City or Mayo and then have to stay in Rochester or be sent back to Covenant for care."
Gehrke, who ultimately suffered a hemorraghic stroke, first came to the Allen Hospital emergency room on Dec. 22. He was sent to Mayo Clinic where he had a craniotomy. Diana Gehrke, Jerry's wife, spent the three weeks living out of a Rochester hotel room. She worried that she would have to split her time between Rochester and Cedar Falls once therapy started.
"They had an opening for rehab in Rochester, but then Melissa Schneider (Allen's community relations coordinator) came to me and told me about this new service," Diana Gehrke said. "The neuro team there was concerned that he got the best care possible, but the staff looked into it and said they thought he would do well here."
Jerry Gehrke said his therapists have pushed him "to the point of being tired." He's even taken to affectionately calling his physical therapist "boot camp" because she expects so much.
And because he was close to home, Diana could continue to work part time while helping her husband through his therapy sessions.
"And he has so many cronies here and they can pop in for a visit for just five or 10 minutes," she said. "Research has shown that that is an important part of therapy."