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How Volunteer, 80, at Southington Care Center Became a Rehab Patient

February 27, 2018

It was wintry outside, but Bartolomeo “Benny” Cammuso brought his sunny attitude inside as he worked out on a cross-trainer in the GoodLife Fitness Center at Southington Care Center at 45 Meriden Ave. Mark Colello, an exercise physiologist, stood by his side monitoring the 80-year-old’s progress throughout his 15-minute “ride.”

Six months ago, Cammuso couldn’t have pedaled at all. In February 2017, a serious stroke brought his life to an abrupt halt. He was first hospitalized at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. For many townspeople, the news about this avid community volunteer was hard to believe – just the week before, Cammuso had received the Southington-Cheshire YMCA Person of the Year Award at the annual gala.

At first stabilized, he was then transferred to another hospital. “It was a life and death situation,” recalled his daughter, Lisa Cammuso. After a 30-day hospital stint, he moved to a rehab center, where he spent more than three weeks.

“He was still so weak,” she said.

Mark Colello, exercise physiologist, right, guides Bartolomeo “Benny” Cammuso as he exercises his legs during a strength-building session at the Southington Care Center GoodLife Fitness Center. Cammuso had a serious stroke in February 2017 and rehabilitated at Southington Care Center.

His recovery began looking better in March after he was transferred to Southington Care Center, where he had volunteered for years. His three-month stay included physical, occupational and speech therapy. His family began to see progress – he was finally walking.

“Southington Care Center is a great rehab facility and it was great for his morale,” Lisa said.

Cammuso, a native of Italy, is one of Southington’s best-known residents. Upon retirement from his 37-year career at General Electric, his volunteering became more than a full-time job with more than a dozen groups including Knights of Columbus, UNICO, Freemasons, AARP, Elks, American Red Cross blood drives (he’s a Hall of Fame donor) and Southington Bread for Life, the local food program where he worked daily. He was even recognized with a $5,000 grant for Bread for Life from the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.

As he increases his strength and mobility, Cammuso is eager to return to volunteering. But his family reminds him that his health comes first. After he was discharged home on June 30, he returned to Southington Care Center for outpatient rehabilitation and now exercises twice weekly at the GoodLife Fitness Center. “He’s doing much better, even walking without his cane at home,” said Elena, his wife of 60 years.

“It’s been quite the ordeal, and he doesn’t remember most of it. He still doesn’t like asking anyone for help,” Lisa said. But slowly, he is getting back to a little volunteering, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army and working at Bread for Life. “Southington Care Center is very good at what they do – they were the deciding factor in him getting back his health.”

Southington Care Center offers skilled nursing and rehabilitation services, and is a not for profit member of Hartford HealthCare Senior Services. For more information about Southington Care Center, click here.