Every year, the staff at Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation at Comanche County Memorial Hospital recognize a patient who stood out by giving them the courage award. They usually do it at a banquet, but because of the pandemic, it looked a little different this year.

Matthew Wiley walked into Comanche County Memorial Hospital on Thursday with no idea he was this year’s winner of the courage award. The award is for patients who demonstrate courage while going through rehab.

Wiley, who recently got a brain tumor removed, said last year he started noticing his arm and leg go numb. The feeling would eventually come back and then go away again.

“I went to the doctor,” he said. “And they sent me from place-to-place to get different diagnoses, and eventually they got to the point where they did find a tumor in the back of my head, in my brain, close to where my functionality and mobility is controlled.”

The young soldier, who was 29 when he got the diagnosis, was going to have to have surgery. But, before he would get the surgery, the singer in the 77th Army Band, wanted to do the annual Christmas show.

“What if I come out of this surgery, and I can’t do this show again? So, I’m going to at least do my last show, and it was spectacular,” Wiley said. “It was an amazing show.”

He had surgery right afterward. The doctor was hoping to get around 80% of the tumor out and ended up getting 95%. Following the surgery, he went to rehab.

“I couldn’t walk,” he said. “I couldn’t talk. I could barely eat.”

“We want to get them functional,” said Inpatient Physical Therapist Jennifer Ninman. “It’s not enough to get them strong. We want them to be able to go to the bathroom, be able to go up and downstairs if they need to, be able to walk whatever distance they need to walk.”

“It’s crazy now, after getting through it, to look back and see oh my gosh, I have really come a long ways,” he said.

Ninman said Wiley was self-motivated, had determination, and never had a bad attitude.

“He would sing us songs,” she said. “We danced to Whitney Houston and the 60′s and 70′s music. We made it therapeutic. It was fun because we could dance for his therapy and work on his balance and his stepping, and it was just great fun.”

It was moments like this that got him nominated for the award. Throughout the process, he said he kept his faith in God, which helped keep his spirits high.

“You don’t know who you are until you go through some things,” Wiley said. “I’m glad to be who I am. Just trust in God.”

They said not only was he an encouragement to the staff, but he also encouraged the other patients going through rehab. He’s is back at work getting to do what he loves.