WALTERBORO, S.C. / MAY 27, 2015 - After his harrowing accident, one of the things Keith Stanley wanted most was to see his wife smile again. The rehabilitation staff at Colleton Medical Center (CMC) gave him that and much more.

Stanley had just turned 41 when a large Telehandler forklift he was helping to guide backed into him Aug. 26. One of the tires "grabbed" his foot, pulled him under, crushed his pelvis and continued to roll toward his chest before the driver realized what was happening and stopped. "If it had come up six more inches, I wouldn't be here," Stanley says. "I'm lucky to be here."

The accident happened while Stanley was working with a company contracted to construct sheds at the Marine Corps Air Station at Beaufort. Emergency responders took him to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, where his wife, Mary, rushed to see him. Shortly after, a helicopter team flew him to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, where he underwent a series of surgeries to repair his pelvis and serious internal injuries.

He spent more than three weeks at MUSC, starting out in the intensive care unit, before he was transferred to CMC in Walterboro for acute rehabilitation. His wife and their two children had stayed in Charleston to be close to him initially, even though it meant missing the start of the school year. At CMC, he would be closer to the family's home in Varnville, and he would receive nationally recognized rehabilitation care.

In fact, CMC has since earned the 2015 Top Performer Award from the Uniform Data System for Medical Rehabilitation (UDSMR) for "outstanding performance" in comparison to more than 800 programs nationwide.

CMC's acute rehabilitation unit has served the community for more than two decades. Its reputation for quality and other sought-after features, such as private patient rooms, attract people from other parts of the state as well. The 14-bed unit typically serves patients who have had a stroke or serious injuries to the head, spine or other parts of the body. Six of the physical and occupational therapists have more than 20 years of experience. Other members of the team include nurses, speech therapists and nutritionists.

When he arrived, Stanley says, he could barely move without "excruciating" pain. "It hurt to sit up. I wasn't comfortable unless I was laying down flat." With healing and therapy, he eventually could sit up on the edge of the bed so staff could help him into a wheelchair. By the time he left CMC a month later, he was walking with a walker and completing tasks on his own, such as getting dressed and brushing his teeth. "They really gave me a jump start on coming back."

During his stay, the staff members grew to feel like family, not only in how they treated him, but also his wife, their 12-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, who knew he could count on ice cream with every visit. "They spoiled them," Stanley laughs.

As the Stanleys' 13th wedding anniversary approached, registered nurses Wendy Graham and April Cooke suggested the couple celebrate with a candlelit steak dinner, cooked personally by a hospital chef. "We kept it a secret from my wife, and we got it all planned out. It took about two weeks of planning, and the nurses provided everything they could provide, decorations for the room and all kinds of stuff."

When their anniversary arrived on Oct. 21, Stanley stood inside the festive room next to the dinner table and could see his wife's expression when she saw the setup. She stayed by his side as much as possible throughout the ordeal, and soon she was joining him at the table. "It sure was a shock," she recalls. "It was nice though."

"It was finally a moment that she could get a smile on her face and be happy," he says. "It was the best anniversary we could ever have, as far as that goes, being in the condition I was in."

Stanley returned home the next week, at the end of October, and while he still faces many challenges 10 months later, he continues to make progress so that he can help take care of his children and do chores. He sometimes stops by to visit the CMC rehabilitation staff members and continues to be grateful for their care, and for one memory that he and his wife don't want to forget.