Deborah Stolley and two staff working with exercise bands

Deborah Stolley: Feeling the love while learning to walk again

Patient Experience

Apr 27, 2022

Deborah Stolley jokes that she should have “Brooks Family Member” tattooed on her arm.

Since having both legs amputated above the knees, she’s learning to walk again with prosthetics, and she is excited about her progress.

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The Palm Coast resident is also grateful for the care, compassion, and encouragement she’s received during her weekly visits to the Halifax Health | Brooks Rehabilitation Ormond Beach outpatient clinic.

Her physical therapist, Jennifer Volz, specializes in amputees, and “she’s one hundred percent inspiring and takes no prisoners,” Stolley says. “No is not in her vocabulary, and it’s not in mine anymore.”

Complications from Type 2 Diabetes and peripheral artery disease led to Stolley’s leg amputation surgeries at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville with Dr. Feezor in May and September 2019.

At first, due to impaired circulation, she had an infected toe on her left foot removed, then all of the toes on that foot.

Later, when she began experiencing stabbing pains in that leg, Stolley says her doctor determined that her “veins were shot,” leaving no other option but to amputate above the knee. Three months later, after she developed sepsis, a life-threatening complication of an infection, the right leg was removed.

Stolley’s nurse practitioner, Elvia Cortes, fought to get her into the Halifax Health | Brooks Rehabilitation Center for Inpatient Rehabilitation, where she twice spent time as an inpatient. “She didn’t want me to go anywhere else,” says Stolley, who is grateful for that. “It’s been a very rewarding experience. My prosthetist, Mike Hudak from Bremer, and my physical therapist work together. Last week, with loaner knees, I went from three-foot-nine inches to five-foot-four. It was very exhilarating.”

Once Deb receives her C-legs, she will be able to utilize an app to control her knees. She will be able to lock and unlock them allowing for improved activities of daily living while standing. She feels like the Bionic Woman. Halifax Health | Brooks is where her journey began, “and this is where it will end,” she says. “I’m starting to walk.”

And she will walk, says Volz. “She has every opportunity to succeed, because she won’t let herself quit.”

Volz says she enjoys working with Stolley because of her upbeat, positive attitude which makes a huge difference in her progress. Stolley, on the other hand, focuses on being grateful every day for her progress. “She’s not bitter or mad,” Volz says. “She’s the best. A positive attitude is important for all stages of recovery. It definitely makes all the difference.”

And Stolley credits her can-do attitude to the care she’s receiving at Brooks. “It’s a family here,” she says. “I feel the love every day.”

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