Following surgery, 46-year-old Justin Thomas had his hesitations about coming to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown’s Transitional Care Unit for short-term rehabilitation. But, from the minute a courteous driver picked him up from Lancaster General Hospital, “Masonic Village was the best choice I could make,” he said.

As a previous visitor to the campus, he knew Masonic Village was beautiful and the care was highly rated. He also knew the typical resident was age 65 or older.

“I’m a pup,” he said. “I knew it was going to be interesting. Many of the residents and other patients lived in different decades than me and had different cultural experiences.”

When he arrived at Masonic Village on Aug. 25, Justin could’ve secluded himself in his suite, leaving only for therapy and meals, but he decided this was too good of an opportunity to miss. He soon struck up a conversation with a fellow patient, age 91.

“At first it seemed like we had nothing in common, except we were both trying to get better and go home,” he said. “I met his wife, too, and we really got to know each other. We became good friends. I made all kinds of friends I wasn’t expecting to. It was a real learning experience. There is a lot of wisdom here if you’re willing to be open minded to new people. They inspired me, and we encouraged each other to heal.”

At every turn, Justin found comfort. He settled into his private suite, but soon realized the bed was a bit short for his stature. Staff quickly found a longer bed for him. When he was surprised to learn there was no meat served at breakfast, he decided to embrace healthier eating habits and even lost a few pounds. He looks forward to implementing what he learned at home with his wife and three children.

Physical and occupational therapy sessions weren’t easy, but Justin realized staff were on his side.

“They really pushed me to the point where I learned to trust myself,” he said. “They made it hard me for me and fun for me. I was really impressed with how friendly all the staff are. It doesn’t seem like a job to them; they truly enjoy what they do. Everybody – nurses, doctors, therapists, pastors, volunteers, housekeepers, drivers – was so nice.”

The staff will miss Justin, who returned home Sept. 8. His upbeat attitude was encouraging to patients and staff alike and made it enjoyable for everyone, like the time he “hid” under his bed covers to avoid physical therapy or belted out “Happy Birthday” in honor of another patient’s 93rd birthday.

“I was so impressed from the time I checked in,” he said. “They get things done, while being mindful of your pain. It was nice to be loved. I’m kind of sad to be leaving, but I’ll be back. I told some of my buddies, in about 20 years, I know where we’re all moving.”