Catching Up with Jim Eckert

“Little steps are big steps.”

That’s what Jim Eckert’s therapists at Magee told him every day for months. But to be perfectly frank, he didn’t quite believe them—not at first.

In September 2012, Jim had a stroke, causing him to fall down a flight of stairs and sustain a traumatic brain injury as well. Because of both traumas to the brain, his survival was a miracle – but after leaving acute care, he still had a long way to go.

When he arrived at Magee for rehabilitation, he couldn’t speak. He couldn’t walk. His progress was steady, but not fast enough for the man who had been a competitor his whole life.

“My therapists always said to me ‘little steps are big steps,’ and I fought that idea for a long time,” he said. “Sarah [speech therapist] would push me to read and work on my cognitive skills even when I was frustrated. Jackie [OT] and Erin [PT] push me to keep standing and walking. These were all little steps – but late in my rehabilitation when I saw videos of what I was like when I arrived [at Magee]… I finally got what they meant.”

Jim was an inpatient at Magee for 3 months, and an outpatient for three months. Throughout his time here, his therapists continued to remind him that those little steps were in fact big steps – and now he’s a believer.

“It was unbelievable how I healed,” he said. “When Sarah, Jackie and Erin would congratulate me on my progress, I would always say, ‘Maybe I did the work, but you steered the ship.’”

After leaving Magee, Jim was happy to return to his wife, children and grandchildren – but he was a little nervous about the family trip they had planned to Ocean City, New Jersey. For most of the trip, he stayed near the family’s shore house, not venturing out with the rest of his family.

But on one of the last days of his trip, Jim made a decision – he was going to walk his grandchildren down the famous boardwalk. This would be the first time Jim walked without assistance after his stroke and brain injury. Was he nervous?

“Yeah, I was nervous!” he said. “But my family was so excited – they couldn’t wait to get me on that boardwalk.”

And, together with his grandchildren, Jim made the monumental walk. How did it feel?

“Amazing,” he said. “I had been making little steps… but this… this was a huge step.”

If you are a former patient and would like to share your story, email believe@Magee editor Kim Shrack at We would love to hear from you!


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