Son honors father with sunflower donation to Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehab Hospital

Tim Flannery was told he may never walk again after a devastating motorcycle accident in July 2021. Today, the Joliet man is on his feet with a walker and determined to stand tall on his own again.

To honor his father, Sean Flannery donated dozens of sunflower seedings to Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton, where Tim underwent rehabilitation after his accident.

The flowers are planted outside the hospital chapel windows and along an entrance drive to inspire patients.

"Sunflowers stand tall, growing and thriving against weather conditions. I'm still growing but soon will be like the giant sunflower," said Tim. "Through the efforts of the incredible staff at Marianjoy and my family's support, I'm beating the odds and am determined to walk with no aid soon."

When Tim arrived at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in February 2022 after months at trauma and long-term care hospitals, he couldn't stand, walk or feed himself.

He underwent intensive daily therapy for six weeks to regain as much independence and function as possible.

"Despite a major injury with subsequent complications, Tim was motivated to recover and gain his function back. He worked extremely hard to get to where he is today, along with the help of his very supportive family and team of therapists at Marianjoy," said Melanie Ann Stearns, MD, physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital.

Growing the flowers has been therapeutic for Sean, who is a recovering alcoholic.

Due to his mother's work schedule, Sean became one of the primary caregivers for his dad, helping to feed, bathe and dress him.

While hospitalized, Sean was Tim's companion, enjoying sports on TV and delivering tasty chicken wings to boost his dad's spirit.

"It is incredible to see how far my dad has come. It is huge," said Sean. "I hope these sunflowers give people hope, strength and determination."

Prior to his accident, Tim and Sean would plant flowers and vegetables together.

Tim hopes gardening will soon be therapeutic for him as well. He is working on his balance, strength and flexibility in outpatient therapy with the goal of once again reaching over on his own to pluck some fresh vegetables from the dirt.

"Tim was near death so many times, but he persisted. I'm so impressed by his determination. During rehab, he would always do one more set than was asked," said Tim's wife, Joann. "And it was amazing to see how Sean stepped up and into my shoes as his dad's advocate. He was a son and a friend."

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