Why We Do It

Misdiagnosed man finds right answers to dance at daughter’s wedding

By Bonnie Tormay

“I came to the realization that I was not getting better and I needed help.”

For 20 years, Garry Brooke fought a disease he didn’t have, and once he was properly diagnosed and had surgery, he had one goal in mind: to dance at his daughter’s wedding.

Originally diagnosed with — and treated for — multiple sclerosis, it wasn’t until Brooke was 43, switched neurologists and had a MRI that he was correctly diagnosed with Arnold Chiari malformation and spinal stenosis.

Before then, his condition had worsened. Not only did the pain take a toll on his quality of life, but he lost the ability to stand on his own. “At night, I would often lay on the floor, crying from the pain,” he said. “I came to the realization that I was not getting better and I needed help.”

In March 2021, Brooke underwent spinal surgery at the Bone & Joint Institute with Dr. Brendan Killory and was transferred to the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit where he worked with doctors, therapists and nurses to regain function and motor skills, including learning to walk again.

In late April, Brooke went home, but his recovery did not end there. Hartford HealthCare at Home teams continued physical therapy for weeks before he transitioned to outpatient therapy.

In January 2022, after caring for his father in Florida for several months, Brooke resumed therapy at the Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network, with the goal of dancing with his daughter Victoria at her April wedding.

“I was scared to death when I shared my goal with the physical therapist,” he said. “But, I knew how much it meant to Victoria and that’s all that mattered.”

For the next two months, Brooke worked diligently with his physical therapists. Knowing he had a long history of practicing and teaching martial arts, one physical therapist, Misty Durkee, incorporated familiar exercises into his therapy.

“I was not holding onto the walker at that point,” Brooke recalled. “I was shifting my weight, synchronizing movements with my hands, all while standing. I had not done that in 20 years!”

After weeks of hard work, he was ready. Not only did he dance with his daughter, he stood on his own to give a speech.

“Misty had me try different things to prepare for the big day,” Brooke said. “I would practice, in my dress shoes, to the song I would be dancing to — moving side to side, subtle movements to help build endurance and core strength.”