Luke Paliocha was either two or three years old when he became a patient at Stephens Memorial Hospital's (SMH) Physical Rehabilitation Department. His mom, Lia, and the longest term employees at SMH are fuzzy on the exact age. However, all are certain that Luke has grown leaps and bounds turning into a fine young man during the time he has been coming to therapy.
Luke graduated on Saturday, May 29th from Gould Academy. For Luke, this graduation will bring a transition to college; and as his school of choice is the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, brings another graduation - from his physical therapy at SMH.
In honor of his rehab graduation, Luke was honored on Friday, June 4th, by the staff of the rehab department at the hospital. All available members of the rehab team were on hand to celebrate, as well as an old friend, Leo Credit, PT, who was one of Luke's first therapist's.
Luke has been a staple at SMH for nearly all of his life. He has cerebral palsy and a very dedicated set of parents who pushed for the best care for Luke. Mom, Lia Paliocha shares, "Luke has been at therapy once a week - forever and he never complains. There are so many great people here and we're very grateful for the early intervention, and for the therapists working with Luke to make this fun."
Luke says, "I was here before a lot of people who work here now. There are really good people here."
The admiration that the Paliocha's have for the staff is mutual. Lissa Merrill, PT, the Director of Physical Rehab, put together a video for Luke of the progress he has made through the years, intertwined with congratulatory messages for Luke from the staff. The biggest message? They are all going to miss him. All of those who work in the rehab department admire Luke's hard work, and dedication.
Watching the video Luke laughs at himself, explaining he was "riding a bike and using the water cooler to get "gas" for the bike, working on fine motor skills. They did make it fun."
Lia Paliocha shares that her son has been fortunate to come full circle, partially due to the wonderful therapy team at SMH. "Luke started at age 6 with Maine Handicapped Skiing, made the team at age 9, and now is volunteering for them. He always tries to be positive and gives advice to people with disabilities to inspire them."
Rae Buehl, the department's administrative assistant, has known Luke since he started, she sums it up, "Luke is such a trooper, he's just a great kid and has a great family. We really will miss him."
Stephens Memorial Hospital is a Leapfrog Top Rural Hospital and a member of MaineHealth.
Photo caption: Front Row: L-R: Sharon Phinney, PT, Rae Buehl, Luke Paliocha, Kaz Toita, PT Dee Phinney, Beth Damon. Back: Kristle VanHise, OT, Leo Credit, PT, Wes Brown, Dean Beaudin, Lissa Merrill, PT