Wayne Wente's story

Wayne sitting in the cab of his truck with the door open, smiling.

On the road again

To long-haul truck driver Wayne Wente, his pride and joy is his rig, custom fit with living quarters suited to a man on the road.

It was Christmas Eve and Wayne, 62, was en route from the Midwest, traveling through central Pennsylvania when he developed severe abdominal pain and signs of septic shock.

He pulled into a truck stop and flagged down help. Someone called an ambulance and Wayne was taken to Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. He underwent exploratory surgery during which surgeons discovered a ruptured gastric ulcer. He was also diagnosed with critical illness myopathy, a weakening of limb and respiratory muscles sometimes found in complex, critically ill patients.

Wayne spent the next five weeks in the hospital. Once stabilized, he was transferred to Penn State Health Rehabilitation Hospital (PSHR), which specializes in complex medical rehabilitation.

A team of doctors, nurses and therapists crafted an individualized treatment program to help Wayne regain his strength, balance, endurance and self-care skills in hopes of returning to the road.

With the oversight of a specialized team of providers, Wayne participated in an intensive rehabilitation program consisting of individual and group physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT).

In his physical therapy sessions, Wayne performed standing exercises to increase his lower body and core strength. His team constantly encouraged him to walk as he started with short distances and increased to longer ones. This was important to Wayne, whose main goal was to get back into his truck.

“The PT and OT program was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I knew the work would pay off in the end,” Wayne said.

Occupational therapy helped Wayne relearn self-care tasks such as bathing and dressing. “These were pivotal to realizing my end goal,” Wayne said. He practiced putting on his socks and shoes and getting dressed with the help of his therapists. Repetition allowed him to do these independently over time. They also worked on planning a safe approach to completing his self-care tasks while living in a tractor-trailer cabin.

Wayne’s milestone moment came when the treatment team took him on a field trip to the truck stop. There, he practiced getting into his truck. “This is when I knew I was going to be okay. This is when I knew I was in the right hands,” Wayne said.

After just two weeks, Wayne was discharged to his home – his truck – with an exercise program, medications and follow-up appointments scheduled.

Wayne described his stay as “nothing less than a miracle.”

“I was provided a new perspective on life. My dream of getting back into my truck and on the road wouldn’t be real if I did not have the excellent care at Penn State Rehabilitation Hospital. I can’t thank them enough,” said Wayne.