Life Care Centers of America
Heidi Pino, Life Care Public Relations

Gary Epperson knows Life Care Center of Cleveland, Tennessee, inside and out – first as an employee, and now as a rehabilitation graduate.

Gary served as the facility’s bus driver for four years before a heart attack led him to retire from the position. He also did a rehab stint in 2018 after having to have his leg amputated.

This spring, Gary contracted COVID-19 and ended up in the hospital for 50 days, including having to be on a ventilator twice.

“They called my family and told them I wasn’t going to make it,” Gary said.

Thankfully, the prognosis was wrong. Gary survived COVID, although he was significantly weakened from the disease and the muscle atrophy.

“When I first came to Life Care Center of Cleveland this time, I couldn’t raise my arms,” Gary remembered.

His physical and occupational therapists started working with him very slowly since he couldn’t tolerate sitting up for very long. They began with exercises he could do lying down in bed. As he gained strength, they worked on sitting balance and transfers from one surface to another, as well as basic self-care tasks. Speech therapy worked with Gary on his voice, which had been reduced to a whisper by his intubation.

“They pushed me, but I appreciate them,” Gary said of his therapy team. “I owe my recovery to them and the Lord. They tried to get the best out of me.”

Gary’s encouragers also included his family, especially his wife of 48 years, Debbie, who visited him daily, and his 6-year-old granddaughter, who has visited as often as possible and kept his wall stocked with her artwork.

Gary is now independent in his bed mobility and getting around much better. His voice is stronger, and he can take care of himself with his wife’s help. He returned home on June 15 with home health to help him continue his progress.

Now, his goal is to return to his family’s gospel quartet, The Singing Echoes. Although his voice changes mean he can no longer sing in the group, he is eager to return to managing the bookings.

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