Southington Care Center | Patient Stories

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Friendship becomes unexpected perk of recovery at Southington Care Center

Two Plantsville women knew they would recover well from their medical issues after having short-term rehabilitation at Southington Care Center. However, they never expected a special perk: making a new friendship that they hope will never be broken.

SCC Testimonial Lopes/SwistJennifer Lopes and Betty Swist, who met in December while both recuperating from surgeries, found out they had a lot in common. As the youngest patients there, they started chatting and visiting each other’s rooms several times each day between their occupational and physical therapy sessions. They soon learned that they lived less than one mile apart and were even at the same event held at a local tavern during the summer.

They also noted that they had similar outgoing personalities and they both like to laugh. One night, while many patients were sleeping, Swist brought chocolate pudding as a surprise to Lopes’ room where they shared the treat.

“It feels like I’ve known her forever. I’ve made a friend for life,” Lopes said.

Southington Care Center, located at 45 Meriden Ave., offers not only skilled nursing and palliative care but short-term rehabilitation, for which it received Best Short-Term Rehabilitation Rating from U.S. News & World Report in late 2019.

The two women encouraged each other in their rehabilitation which focused on strengthening, balance and climbing stairs. Lopes, who had undergone extensive foot surgery and couldn’t bear weight, concentrated on being more independent so she could return home. They both were looking forward to recovering quickly to return to work, Lopes as a paralegal and Swist as a speech and language pathologist.

They made the most of their time there, not only encouraging each other but other patients as well. “We wanted to get to know everyone,” Swist said. She’d like to become a volunteer at Southington Care where she received the therapy she needed to resume her active life. “It was wonderful there,” she said.

Now that they have both been discharged, they are staying in touch regularly. “Betty and I talk all the time and we are planning our adventures once we are healed,” Lopes said.

Quote_5 Transparent reversed.pngFormer skier gets back on her feet thanks to rehab at Southington Care Center.

Plantsville resident Norma Zygmunt remembers well when Mount Southington Ski Area opened up within walking distance from her home - even though no one in her family skied. “I was so excited,” she said, thinking back to 1964. Soon she got a job there and she and her family members became avid skiers.

Now 91, Zygmunt hung up her skis long ago. However, she still holds the same zest for life and has not been discouraged by health problems. This spring, she fell at home and had surgery to repair her fractured left hip at Hospital of Central Connecticut, New Britain campus. She requested to recuperate at Southington Care Center, where she had received rehabilitation in the past, knowing they would take good care of her.

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Norma Zygmunt receives a good-bye hug from William Kowalewski, Southington Care Center executive director. In May she recuperated at Southington Care Center following a fall at home and surgery.

Zygmunt spent three weeks at Southington Care, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation community located at 45 Meriden Ave. There, she underwent extensive physical and occupational therapy as she mended.

However, at first, she was concerned she might have to miss the annual reunion for the Lewis High School Class of 1946. She had worked hard to organize the event and was still finalizing the details when she had her accident. Southington Care Center worked with Zygmunt to ensure that she was able to attend the local reunion in fine style and she was transported to and from the event.

She continued with her therapy twice each day. “They were fantastic. They push you to your limit,” she said. “They were so encouraging, so helpful,” she recalled.

Zygmunt said she felt more than a “patient” because of the care she received including a listening ear from William Kowalewski, Southington Care Center executive director. When she had some suggestions, he addressed her concerns, she recalled.

Her care continued once she was discharged with physical therapy at home from Hartford HealthCare at Home professionals. She continues to do strengthening exercises at home - she doesn’t want to have another fall or fracture. “I hope I don’t have to go back to Southington Care Center but I sure would if I had to. They’ve been so good to me.”

—Norma Zygmunt


Continuum of care gets dedicated community servant back in the action.

A man who generally doesn’t enjoy wasting time stressing over events over which he has no control, Dick Fortunato does however lament, partly in jest, that he missed several celebrations this summer including his granddaughter’s high school graduation, his own birthday and Father’s Day.

The troubles for this Plantsville resident began in May when he fell over a glass table in a business waiting room. With visible cuts, bruises and painful swelling, his wife drove him to the Emergency Department at the Hospital of Central Connecticut, Bradley Memorial campus for treatment. He had escaped fractures, but with a severe leg wound and multiple sub-cutaneous hematomas he needed wound care. Within a few weeks of treatment at a wound center and home nursing care, the wound seemed to be getting worse.

After consultation with a physician at the Wound Care Center at the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, Fortunato learned that he had five types of bacterial infections and would need surgery. Having surgery on his birthday – June 17 – wasn’t his idea of celebrating but he took it in stride, hopeful that he would soon be on the road to recovery. Within six days of surgery, 87-year-old Fortunato was admitted to Southington Care Center for short-term rehabilitation with closely monitored nursing care for the healing of the wound.

His first step literally was learning how to get out of bed, use a walker, and then a cane, all with a wound-vac strapped to his leg. His focus became working diligently at his twice-daily physical and occupational therapy sessions. “I was there 24 days, always counting the days and weeks since the injury until I was home again on July 25th with continuing daily home nursing visits and weekly visits to the wound center in New Britain until late September,” Fortunato said.

Putting his active life on hold was difficult for this community and church volunteer who also pens a blog and newspaper column, “Appleseed,” as well as other articles. “I remember watching Fourth of July celebrations on TV alone in my room after visitors went home. I felt so down,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘Is this it, Lord?’”

However, his faith - coupled with the encouragement of his wife, Grace, family, Southington Care Center staff, many visitors and even the volunteers - kept him focused on regaining his strength and normal abilities. Looking back, he said he was aware of and impressed with the entire staff. “They all seemed to be in sync – in a seamless harmony of care, each one knowing what I needed.”

“At Southington Care Center, they are doing their job and more. They have a visibly strong feeling of compassion, understand your pain, share their stories and listened to mine,” Fortunato commented. “The attention was unbelievable. I wasn’t with strangers – they were like family and friends.”  Fortunato continues now in out-patient physical therapy and will be transitioning into the GoodLife Fitness program at the SCC Rehab Pavilion. “At Southington Care, I feel like I’m a real person in the community, a neighbor, a friend. There’s a continuum of heart-felt care that is so important in healing,” he concluded. Fortunato vows not to miss his next big celebration: his and Grace’s 65th anniversary in January.

—Dick Fortunato

Quote_1 copy.pngTo the Southington Care Center staff and administration,

I would like to thank all you for great care I recently received for the wonderful care after my hip replacement. I was happy I decided to go to rehab after my surgery and pleased you were able to accommodate me.

Your outstanding staff (i.e. nursing, housekeeping, dietary) made my stay a great experience. I don’t want to leave out your fabulous therapy department. If not for Laura and OT Meagan, I wouldn’t have had the confidence they instilled in me.

I want to acknowledge Robin, Anne and Rachael for great nursing, Hanna and Gladis as outstanding CNAs. Not to be left out: admissions, social services and discharge planning for a smooth admission and discharge.
Keep up the great work.

Sincerely and God bless,
Christine Flugrad

Quote_3 copy.pngEvelyn McKay,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the great staff at SCC. Following my knee replacement surgery in April, I spent 5 days at SCC. During my in-patient stay I worked with Ceil for PT and Crisla for OT. Once discharged, I continued Physical Therapy for several weeks on an outpatient basis and worked with Laurel and Ken.

The PT and OT staff always maintained a positive “Can Do” attitude, even on the days I felt challenged! Laurel, Ceil, Ken, and Crisla constantly provided a supportive and caring environment, and never hesitated to respond to my concerns. Their encouragement and sense of humor certainly facilitated my progress. I am currently participating in the “Good Life Fitness” program under the direction of Rob. The success of this valuable program is due to Rob’s dedication and upbeat personality. My quick and complete recovery is truly a reflection on your extraordinary staff!

With Sincere Thanks, 
Mary Ann O’Brien

Quote_5 Transparent reversed.pngI am walking again without the need for any assistance or even a cane since my bi-lateral knee operation by Dr. Froeb and Dr. Carangelo.

I not only attribute this to the excellent job done by two fine doctors,their staff and the folks and The Hospital of Central Connecticut but also the nurses, aides, physical therapy and occupational therapy folks at Southington Care Center were instrumental in my progress.

The thirty days I spent preparing at home for this operation through exercises as shown in the “knees” binder (from the Joint Center at the Hospital of Central Connecticut) was most helpful as well it become my Bible.

And I attribute an even greater part of the healing process as a result of the opportunity to participate in the pre-op physical therapy with Good Life Fitness. It was focused and helped with the needed upper body strength. I would recommend that anyone who is to have a knee replacement get ready in advance through home exercise and participation in your Pre-hab Physical Therapy Program.

Thank you again for that opportunity and the fine care of all the personnel at Southington Care Center.

—Patricia Simard, Southington Care Center Client

Southington Care Center