Hickory Hills man recovers from illness and is selected as ‘Patient of the Year’

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

papoutsis photo 9-22

Submitted photo

Hickory Hills resident Nicolaos Papoutsis looks at the award Friday he received as “Patient of the Year 2016 “ at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. He is joined by his daughter Stacy Atkinson, who is speaking about his recovery. Also on hand was Leigh Shea (left), his head rehab therapist, and his wife, Irini Papoutsis (right).



Long-time Hickory Hills resident Nicolaos Papoutsis was one of six patients named “Patient of the Year 2016” during the 34th Annual Rehabilitation Achievement Awards Ceremony conducted Friday at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

The event is an observance of National Rehabilitation Week.

Papoutsis was nominated by Annie Krueger, physical therapist assistant II, and Leigh Shea, speech-language pathologist II. They worked with Papoutsis during his six-week stay at the adult Inpatient treatment center. He was described as an unbelievably hard working, steadfast, and amazing man.

Papoutsis, who owns a body shop in Oak Lawn, was at work when he suffered a stroke last year at the age of 79. His co-worker called 911 and he was brought to the Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with a series of serious issues. He had an acute Left frontopareital stroke, a high-grade stenosis of the right internal carotid artery and diabetes, as well as a history of old strokes that went undiagnosed and untreated.

According to Krueger, when he entered the rehab unit on Aug. 6, 2015, he was impaired, weak and distracted. He had moderate impairments in voice, attention, executive function, short-term memory, and auditory processing. He needed total assistance for all mobility.

“He fought through the weakness and countless sessions and progressed from needing total assists to then a minimal assist level for ambulation and stair negotiation. He never quit and he never said no,” said Krueger. “He was open to new treatment ideas and activities in order to prepare himself for being able to access his own home on his own terms with minimal assist provided from his wife. Nick is an amazing man who fought the fight and won in the end. He is a winner to me.”

Echoing those sentiments was Shea, his speech/language pathologist.

“Every day Nick would say, ‘Make it harder. Let’s do more today than yesterday.’ He challenged me to work harder to come up with more challenging therapy tasks,” she said. She added that after he left in-patient rehab, he decided he wanted to continue with speech therapy at day rehab. “That is the kind of patient he is.”

Both Krueger and Shea credited Nick’s family; his wife, Irini; his daughter, Stacy Atkinson; and his two grandchildren for their dedicated support each day which helped him focus and progress from day to day.

“Someone was with him every day,” said Atkinson. “My mom was there all of the time, and the rest of us were in and out.” She said her father has returned to work, although he no longer manages the shop. “But he goes in each day for a little while. He is an amazing man. We are very proud of him and so happy he received such wonderful care here at the hospital.”