After a fall that led Jerry McClam to the hospital, he was diagnosed with Central Cord Syndrome (CCS), an acute, cervical spinal cord injury. This syndrome affects patients age 50 and older who have sustained a cervical hyperextension injury or who have fallen. The night of his fall, he noticed a sudden dizziness. Unsure of the cause, he sat up on the edge of the bed before falling over and hitting the nightstand. He couldn’t move. “I lost all feeling in my extremities,” said McClam. “I was literally paralyzed.” He was taken to Prince George’s County Hospital where doctors performed emergency surgery and diagnosed him with CCS.

After his surgery, he was taken to the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) in Washington, D.C. where he began intense acute rehabilitation. He was not able to use his upper or lower extremities. He was not able to stand, walk or use his arms or hands to perform even the simplest tasks such as feeding himself. He also suffered severe pain.

Fortunately, his family was able to find a post-acute rehabilitation center that had the necessary equipment and expertise to continue the intense rehabilitation that he had received at NRH.

“We chose Charles E. Smith Life Communities (CESLC) because of the environment, professionalism and care,” said McClam. That December, he was transferred from NRH acute rehabilitation to CESLC’s Post-Acute Care Center at Hebrew Home of Greater Washington. Under the supervision of Program Director Ann Matesi and the direct care of Physical Therapist Neeraj Todankar and Occupational Therapist Scott Fernandez, an aggressive therapy plan was implemented.

“I had to relearn many of the movements that others take for granted,” said McClam. According to Matesi, many patients with CCS make spontaneous recovery of motor function while others experience considerable recovery in the first six weeks post injury. McClam had to fight to regain every bit of movement in his extremities. He began with neuro-reeducation techniques to re-build his core strength, progressing to a focus on upper and lower extremity motor control.

According to his physical therapist, Richard Testo, and occupational therapist, Vidhi Shaw, McClam demonstrated tremendous motor skills improvement. He is now able to stand, walk and use his upper extremities to feed himself and perform daily living activities. “He has progressed a lot further in this time span than we imagined possible. His improvement is amazing,” said Testo.

McClam said that his experience at CESLC has changed his entire outlook on life.

A New York native and private investigator for nearly thirty years, McClam walked a lot while working and was active. “As a private investigator, I was so busy that I didn’t do much talking and listening. I have learned to take time with people, speak to them, be around them, and bring a smile to someone’s face,” he said.

“I have more time to read and discuss the Bible and meet some really great people.” As a father of five and grand-father of seven, McClam acknowledges his family’s role in his progress and shares that “without their support and help, I would not have made it.”

McClam returned home in early 2019.

To learn more about the Post-Acute Care Center, please visit our website at or contact our Admissions team at 301-770-8496.