‘I thank God for you’ | Patient celebrates 100th birthday with party at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Hospital, an affiliate of Encompass Health
Just moments before his big party, Oscar Sanchez wrapped up a physical therapy session using weighted wristbands. Then he brushed by the walker that had been poised and ready to help him maneuver to the day room, where cake, balloons and loved ones waited.
On this day – Sanchez’s 100th birthday – he didn’t need the walker. No, he’d walk the hallway at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Hospital, an affiliate of Encompass Health, relying on his own two feet and the steady, caring arm of occupational therapist Julianna Brown. Occupational therapist Karla Ehlers walked behind him.
Staff members at the rehabilitation hospital in Little River organized Saturday’s party to help their patient celebrate his century mark. Family, friends and other patients showered Sanchez with hugs, cards and gifts – though team members would later say they ended up with the best gift from him.
“Just seeing him walk from therapy to the day room today on his 100th birthday just touches me,” said Deirdre Faulk, nurse supervisor at the inpatient rehabilitation hospital, which opened in May. “It is a huge, huge accomplishment.”
Sanchez has been a superstar patient since arriving at the rehabilitation hospital Aug. 1. The independent Myrtle Beach resident was picking pears off a tree in his yard when he lost his balance, his face striking the tree. He ended up with a fractured neck and was admitted to the rehabilitation hospital to regain strength.
His mind is still sharp as a tack. His hearing may not be what it once was, but overall, folks marvel that this fit and active man has lived 100 years.
His positive spirit, gratitude and humor have inspired those around him at the hospital -- from fellow patients to the hospital care team. During physical therapy before his birthday party, he joked that the black support belt Brown wrapped around his midsection was actually his black belt in karate.
“He is just always pleasant and smiling,” said Peg O’Hearn, a registered nurse at the rehabilitation hospital who came in on her day off Saturday for the birthday party. “He’s always so nice and is always thanking the staff.
“Maybe a key to long life is gratitude.”
O’Hearn also has been impressed with Sanchez’s physical progress in the last 10 days, which she attributes, in part, to his can-do attitude.
“Now he’s walking the whole hallway,” she said. “He’s progressing well. He’s getting stronger, and the physical therapy is helping him with balance. It’s pretty amazing at 100 he walks as much as he does.”
For years, family and friends have admired Sanchez’s toughness and his ability to overcome and persevere. Now, he’s shared that spirit with the hospital staff.
“You have personally inspired me,” Faulk said, turning to Sanchez during brief remarks at the party. “He has touched a lot of people in this facility with his courage and strength.”
But he’s not done. After family, friends and staff serenaded him with “Happy Birthday,” Sanchez shared how he’s overcome sickness and other challenges during his 100 years.
“I survived, and I had the strength to keep going,” he said. “All of you have been giving me life to keep on going. I’m very happy everybody is here, and I thank God for you.”
His three children and their spouses were by his side for the party, some traveling from Florida for the occasion. And, like their father, they repeatedly thanked the hospital staff for not only providing crucial care for their father but also celebrating his big day
“We are touched by your compassion, love and great care,” said Sandra Sanchez, his eldest daughter.
Faulk said there was no way this special day, for this special man, would have slipped by the staff without an appropriate celebration.
“This is a huge milestone for him,” Faulk said. “I want him to know he is special. I’m just proud to be part of it.”