Randall Donner
Randall Donner, Communications Senior Professional

Beating the Odds to Survive and Thrive

Mark Pugliese was happy to celebrate his 61st birthday last November with his Mosaic housemates. At one point, he wasn’t sure he’d still be around to do so.

“I didn’t think I’d see 60 let alone 61,” Mark said. “I was in really bad shape. So bad that my family and I made my funeral arrangements for when I passed away. No one thought I was going to survive.”

Mark had previously been living independently—he had a job, drove, walked without assistance and was an active member in the local fire department and Knights of Columbus. In the course of a month, that all changed.

In February 2021, Mark had a serious health scare that landed him in the hospital. He spent weeks between the hospital and a skilled nursing facility until he was able to be discharged to a Mosaic home, his prognosis very poor. The doctors were still worried about Mark’s health, unsure whether he would ever recover. 

Nurse Derek Sheets joined Mark’s team at this time and witnessed his health rapidly declining.

“Then, Mark was unable to walk and was bound to a wheelchair,” Derek said. “He needed help using the bathroom and with all other aspects of his hygiene. His health was still failing, and the doctors placed him on a very restrictive diet, including a fluid restriction.”

Derek said the Mosaic staff were ready and willing to help in any way they could. They stayed committed to ensure Mark made it to his appointments and followed through on all doctor’s orders—including helping with physical therapy. 

“They would contact me routinely with questions and would report progress or setbacks,” Derek said. “In my entire career, I have not seen this level of commitment and involvement.

“I have worked in this field for many years, and I don’t know how to formally recognize Mosaic for this tremendous accomplishment. This was surely a team effort and without the appropriate support from the management team at Mosaic and the support coordinator from the state’s developmental disability service, this does not happen,” he added.

In a recent home visit, Mark surprised Derek. 

“Mark got up out of his chair, walked across the house without the use of any devices, stood in one spot beaming over his success and talking about what he now wants to do. Then he walked back to his chair!” he remarked.

Mark graduated from almost complete dependence on a chair and on staff for nearly everything to being able to transfer himself. He first used a walker, then a cane and is now walking independently and completing routine daily activities almost unaided.

“Staff would show me the progress each month and would be as excited as Mark about that success,” Derek said.

One of the biggest hurdles was his diet. Mark had to learn how to eat right and tolerate fluid restriction. The staff did everything they could, including research and asking questions, to ensure Mark was getting the proper diet and nutrition to support his difficult recovery. Because of Mark’s determination and the incredible devotion of his staff, he lost 89 pounds in one year.

“My goal is not only to get back where I was in January 2021, but also to be even healthier,” Mark said. “I want to stand on my own two feet, put the wheelchair, walker and canes in the closet and walk away from all that. Literally.”

Multiple doctors have commented on the amazing turnaround Mark made, Derek said. In a recent meeting, the team even discussed Mark getting involved in the community again, including joining the local fire department and attending Knights of Columbus meetings.

These were the things that Mark loved before his health scare that have now become future goals. 

When given the proper support, those served by Mosaic can do incredible things.

With a huge smile on his face, Mark exclaimed, “When I get rid of the cane for good, we are partying!”

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