Recovery Care Inspires Incredible Gift

Jack and Anita Smart

Hallowell, Maine

“We came into the ED and they were right on the ball, there was a real sense of urgency coming from every direction. We can’t say enough about the good the staff did.”

Jack Smart 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack and Anita Smart are only 10 steps into the Alfond Center for Health’s Physical Rehabilitation Unit before they receive the first of many beaming warm welcomes.

Today they visit on far happier terms than the ones that brought them here just a few short months ago when Anita was admitted to the Emergency Department with signs of what proved to be her third trans ischemic attack (TIA/mini-stroke) over several years. Her speech was garbled and her words inaccessible. She lost partial use of her left side and experienced general weakness.

“We came into the ED and they were right on the ball,” Jack says. “There was a real sense of urgency coming from every direction. We can’t say enough about the good the staff did.”

As Anita walks down the corridor today, the enthusiastic responses she gets from the caretakers who stewarded her recovery are a testament to how amazingly well she's doing five months later.

And Anita is not the only one who summons a smile with her presence. Her husband Jack is embraced as well, fondly remembered for his unconditional presence and inexhaustible trove of adventurous stories with which he'll regale any willing audience. Mention fishing and you’ll have him hooked and soon be staring at the weathered photos he keeps in his wallet. “I caught a 33-pound Atlantic salmon on a dry fly and six-pound test leader on the Miramichi River in Canada,” Jack says. “It was a camp record that year until someone caught a 34-pound salmon the day before the season ended.”

While Anita gives him grief about carrying photos of hunting expeditions rather than grandchildren, she humors her eager adventurer and has always encouraged his expeditions. The pair spent many a season up to camp in northern Maine. A “county boy” hailing from Houlton, Jack comes by his love of the outdoors naturally. Anita grew up on Long Island and prefers bridge to fly-fishing but never balked at camp weekends where she’d busy herself with children, meal-making and a stack of books to pass the time.

Married for 53 years, the pair have proven steadfast partners, each navigating significant health scares with the support of the other. “Marriage is a 50/50 proposition,” Jack says. “And sometimes it’s 90/10,” Anita chimes in and they share a smile that speaks volumes about devotion through trial.

When not casting or hunting, Jack keeps himself busy with carpentry work, assembling beautiful cherry bureaus and coffee tables. While in Maine, he lunches with his wily group of good friends every Wednesday, just as he has for the past 39 years. While he does that, Anita plays bridge with hers. In fact, she recently played again for the first time since her stroke and won a dollar in her second game — a sure sign of recovery and good things to come!

In appreciation for the care both Anita and Jack received during her recent episode, the Smarts made a leadership gift in support of the Alfond Center for Health. With this gift, they named the Quiet Gym in the Physical Rehabilitation Unit, thinking it not only held a special place for them but that it would be visible to those who’d been so helpful, reminding them of the difference they make in the lives of patients and families on a daily basis. “It was a real pleasure to be treated here,” Anita says. “We couldn’t recommend it more highly,” Jack adds. “It doesn’t seem like a hospital. It’s clean, there are interesting things all around; every person — nurses, doctors, support staff — is polite and nice and the food is good. It was just a pleasant experience.”

As Jack reflects on their journey, an unspeakable depth of gratitude settles in his expression. He pauses, a smile sliding across his face. “It didn’t take long before you became friends,” he says, “before you felt like family.”

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