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In Jeff’s words

Jeff Leighton
A case study came to life on September 20 when former patient Jeff Leighton shared his story of the long road to gain independence after a severe head trauma. Here he is seated (center, light blue shirt) with sister-in-law Susan Leighton to his left and faculty Diane Ellis (standing, in black) to her left.


Former patient brings to life his story of recovery from head trauma

Jeff Leighton’s world changed on September 6, 2010 when he was taking a quick spin around the block on his new motorcycle.  An experienced rider, the Delaware County resident did not wear a helmet for the short ride. He was hit by another vehicle and suffered a head trauma.  That event began his odyssey of recovery lasting months in acute care and still is continuing today in terms of regaining independence.

The 49 year old Leighton was taken immediately to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), where his traumatic injuries and resulting complications were treated in the critical care setting which he eventually left. His teenage son, mother, siblings and their spouses along with nieces and nephews were stunned, wondering if he would live or die and which was worse; in other words, if he lived, what would his life be like?

Leighton survived and lives in his home with periodic therapy and visiting aides who facilitate his activities of daily living. He has shared his story for the last two years with nursing students at the College of Nursing.  His brother Bill’s wife, Susan Leighton, administrative assistant for the Second Degree Programs at the College of Nursing, offers the family perspective on the rollercoaster of recovery, the toll it takes on the family and the importance of nurses.

Diane Ellis, MSN, RN, CCRN, clinical assistant professor  who teaches second degree adult students in the junior level course “Nursing Care of Adults with Complex Health Problems” and is a former neuroscience critical care staff nurse, has the class use Mr. Leighton’s file as a case study before his talk. She then she tells them that the patient is Jeff Leighton.

The former patient and his sister-in-law most recently addressed the class on September 20, 2012. Susan spoke first. A fierce advocate during Jeff’s rehabilitation, she tells students the differences in nursing care they experienced as he was in critical care, step down and medical-surgical units and long term care settings.  “I talk to them about being the best nurse they can be at whatever setting they are employed, I tell some stories and the specific things they can do to be great nurses in terms of professionalism, patience and respectful behavior towards the patient and family,” she notes. 

Jeff told them about his accident and his recovery. He shared his concern that because his rehabilitation ends this week, he will not progress any further, and also told of the struggle to extend it.  The students asked him questions about his quality of life, aides v. independence and his future plans. While the compelling talk was both humorous and moving, one particular moment came when Kathy Gray-Siracusa, PhD, RN, MBA, NEA-BC, assistant professor, was reintroduced to Jeff. For him, it was the first memory of her. As faculty, her Villanova Nursing students cared for him at HUP. Jeff said, “I bet you were very nice to me,” thanked her for taking care of him, gave her a kiss and told her he loves her.