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Back on his feet

Hydrotherapy helps Bismarck man recover from traumatic injuries
Esley Thorton gets help from Jamie Crane, Medcenter One therapist, in the hydrotherapy pool.
Jamie Crane, a Sanford Health physical therapist, works with Esley Thorton in Sanford Health’s rehabilitation pool. The water’s buoyancy is helping Thorton, who was injured in a car accident, regain his ability to walk.
  Esley Thorton had allowed extra time to travel from Bismarck to Mandaree to meet a client the foggy morning of March 5. Less than a half-mile from his destination, he was severely injured in a head-on collision that left him bedridden for nine weeks. Thanks to his own determination and the support of his family and his healthcare providers, he is well on his way to walking again.

Because of the type and severity of his injuries, Esley was flown that day to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn.

The Bismarck man had suffered a broken right wrist, cracked vertebrae in his back, a cracked knee cap, a broken ankle, damage to his sciatic nerve and pelvic and hip fractures.

“My doctor said my pelvic injuries were the worst he had ever seen,” Esley, 55, said. “The left side near the hip was pulverized.”

The day after the accident, Esley underwent 13 hours of reconstructive surgery. “His surgeon said it would be a slow process, but Esley would walk again,” his wife, Melinda, said.

Esley was flown to Sanford Health March 22.

“The level of care was seamless from Regions Hospital to
Sanford Health, and caregivers at both hospitals were

exceptional,” Esley said. “We were grateful Sanford Health was able to care for me, so we could come home.” During his hospital stay, physical therapists began teaching Melinda and the couple’s three sons to care for Esley. He was immobile and could not bear any weight on his legs, so his family learned to use a harness-type lift to move him to a wheelchair. They also learned how to change bandages and continue with home physical therapy.

“Being home meant everything to us,” Esley said.

Home health care was also involved, providing physical therapy and nurse visits.

In early May, Esley entered the hydrotherapy pool and a new phase in his rehabilitation through Sanford Health.

Esley was initially wheeled into the pool. “I hadn’t stretched for nine weeks,” he said. “I lay back in the water, and it felt too good to be true. It was the first time I had confidence that I was going to be OK.”

On land, Esley had been unable to overcome gravity to move his left leg.

“With very minimal muscle, he was able to make a movement with his leg in the water the first session,” Jamie Crane, Sanford Health physical therapist, said.

Esley can now walk unassisted in waist-deep water.

Melinda agreed hydrotherapy was a turning point. “The first time he flipped over in the water, he had a look of bliss on his face,” she said. “It’s accelerated

  Jamie Crane
Jamie Crane
Physical therapy
his recovery and made him believe he would walk again. Jamie and the hydrotherapy staff have been wonderful. They’ve become like family.”

Crane’s goal is for Esley to progress to a land-based therapy program. He now walks unassisted using crutches or a walker. Eventually, he will walk with a single-point cane or no assistive device. He plans to return to his job as trucking manager at Trustland Oilfield Services.

The Thortons’ sons, Esley, Rhannon and Matt, along with Matt’s wife, Pam, have been involved in every aspect of his recovery.

“Esley is a success story, but it wasn’t by chance,” Crane said. “He worked very hard, and he had great support from his family.”

The Thorton family extends heartfelt thanks to all those who have helped Esley in this journey, including the community, Esley’s healthcare providers, his employer and North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance.

Those closest to him remain his foundation.

“My family has been wonderful, and I’m so proud of them,” Esley said. “It’s amazing what others can help you do. I am truly blessed.”

Click here for more information on Sanford Rehabilitation Center or call (701) 323-6197.


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