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Al Whitehurst

Santé® of Chandler Making a Difference in Residents Lives

Hearing the rhythmic voice of six-foot-five, retired, middle schoolteacher, Al Whitehurst, joyfully singing the 80’s super hit “September,” by Earth, Wind and Fire causes me to want to join in and move to the beat, as I enter his room at Santé® of Chandler, one of the Phoenix-area-based short-term skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers and service organizations. We begin our conversation by sharing our mutual appreciation of groups like Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Temptations, Commodores, and the Four Tops.

I am visiting Al to learn about his journey and recovery at Santé. He credits their caring, dedicated staff and skilled doctors with giving him a second chance at life. I am here to learn his story and how he overcame such challenging odds. He is looking forward to the day, when he can return to his full-time substitute teaching position at Sun Valley Academy but for now he is focusing on regaining his strength and his life back.

Sitting next to Al’s bed, he shares he was fighting a life-threatening staph infection but didn’t know it, when he went to get up on April 11, 2021, and couldn’t.  He explains this to me as he leans against the pillows on his bed in his spacious room to share his story.  He is extremely thin, and he says that his normal weight is 240 pounds but over the course of this ordeal he lost 70 pounds.  To date, he has successfully gained back 20 of those pounds, making his current weight 190 pounds.  He continues his story by saying he thought he was just experiencing cramps but later that night, sometime after midnight, he arrived at Banner Desert Medical Center and learns that he has a severe staph infection ravaging through his body requiring eight weeks of antibiotics and a morphine drip to fight it off and save his life.

The infection originated in his left hip, resulting from multiple hip replacement surgeries. He describes his state of mind during this time as full of intense pain, abrupt, cursive, and negative.  His friends feared he was close to death. After a difficult and painstaking, five-hour hip surgery to remove a blood clot he began his fight to regain his life by coming to Santé of Chandler.

Al arrived at Santé on May7 where he began his care regiment and discharged on June 18.  During his recovery, he experiences a string of tragic family events and loses both his sister and his brother’s partner to death.  On July 11, he reaches a low point and decides to seek a second opinion regarding his course of treatment.  After this second opinion, Al returns to Santé of Chandler with a different treatment plan, feeling confident and with a whole new attitude!  He pledges to himself that this time he is going to walk out of Santé!

He smiles as he describes his walker and affectionately calls it “Betsy”.  He praises Dr. Camarata, the Santé® Occupational and Physical therapists, his CNA Lucas Orellano, and Case Manager Luisa Gonzalez, calling them the reason he can walk again.  He knows he is getting better because he is looking forward to eating a piece of sweet potato or apple pie and continuing to gain his strength and his weight back!  Slowly he is able to put weight on his hip and begin to walk again!

“Santé made the difference between me giving it all up, or being able to walk out these doors a happy man”!  He credits his staff and doctors at Santé as his rock and soul, providing outstanding personal caring, knowledge of the patient, and care just like a big sister!  Al is close to walking out the doors of Santé and is so grateful to be looking forward to a full life again.  He has had a very fulfilling life throughout his seven decades of living, including serving 8 years in the army, working as a successful pharmaceutical representative in Alaska, TV sportscaster, entertainer and singer on a cruise ship, educator, and outstanding athlete in football, basketball and baseball for Brooklyn New York State University, Oswego, New York.  Thanks to Santé   of Chandler he is looking forward to a full life and his full-time substitute teaching position at Sun Valley Academy again!

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