Left to right: Adam Federico, physical therapist assistant; TurningBear Mason; Lorraine Mangan, speech therapist; and Lynn Mason, TurningBear’s wife

By Ross Brantner, director of rehab services


Life Care Center of Tucson, Arizona, recently had the pleasure of treating noted artist TurningBear Mason.


Mason, who has been involved in the art community for more than 40 years, worked toward his rehabilitation like a painter creating a portrait of his future self. With an artist’s vision, he was able to shape an image of the recovery he desired through the work he performed every day in physical, occupational and speech therapies.


“What impressed me most about TurningBear was his attitude and his drive to push himself beyond what was asked of him,” said Adam Federico, the physical therapist assistant who worked almost daily with Mason.


When Mason arrived at our facility, following a protracted hospitalization for treatment of a stroke, he required maximum assistance with all basic ADLs. He was only able to walk 10 feet and could only do so with moderate physical assistance. He also required assistance with self-feeding and was restricted to a puree diet due to swallowing deficits. He was entirely unable to speak.


Every morning, Mason was awakened by Joyce Hayes, his primary occupational therapist assistant, in order to work on dressing, hygiene and other aspects of his morning routine.


“Some mornings I would arrive to work with him as early as 6 a.m.,” said Hayes. “He never once asked to me to come back later, never even tried to sleep a little longer.”


Mason’s hard work paid off. After nearly three months of steady effort, he was ready to return home with his wife and biggest supporter, Lynn. At the time of his return home, he no longer needed any assistance with his basic daily needs. He was able to get out of bed independently, and he was walking more than 700 feet with a cane and no physical assistance. He went from being able to stand for less than a minute with support from a therapist to standing for more than 15 minutes with no support. Even his swallowing and his speech improved to the point that he was advanced to a regular diet and was uttering short phrases.


We at Life Care will miss TurningBear, but we know that he needs to get home to put the finishing touches on his masterpiece – the art of everyday life.