Life Care Centers of America
Maria Pattugalan, director of rehab services

Billie Chew is one of many inspiring stories of someone who survived the complications of COVID-19.

Billie is a perfectly healthy 72-year-old woman who lived an active and independent lifestyle. Little did she know that her life would change after she was infected with COVID-19 and was rushed to the hospital due to worsening respiratory function. She was placed in the ICU and intubated for three weeks. Her prognosis was poor. She stayed six more weeks in the hospital to stabilize her cardiopulmonary condition prior to transferring to Life Care Center of Jacksonville, Florida.

Upon admission, Billie was still dependent on oxygen and had a feeding tube. She had weakness in her right shoulder and had no active extension of her left hand and wrist. She was totally dependent with her activities of daily living, such as dressing and bathing. She was unable to walk or transfer from one surface to another. She demonstrated poor balance in sitting or standing. She was able to feed herself with some help, but swallowing was difficult, and she was placed on a nectar-thick diet.

All rehab disciplines (physical, occupational and speech) and nursing worked together to help Billie get back on her feet.

Billie was determined.

Initially, her oxygen saturation levels would drop with the simplest of activity. She was easily fatigued and short of breath, but her motivation to get better superseded any physical setbacks. She worked hard with the rehab team so she could learn to start getting out of bed on her own and sitting at the edge of the bed. Physical therapy worked on her standing balance in order for her to start taking steps. Occupational therapy used modalities to get her right shoulder and left hand to work again. They also worked on training her with ADLs. Speech therapy gave her exercises and taught her compensatory strategies to improve her swallow.

After six long weeks of training, Billie made significant progress toward her goal of going home with as little assistance needed as possible.

She can now get in and out of bed independently. She can transfer from her bed to the wheelchair with someone steadying her. Her mobility improved to walking more than 100 feet with using a rolling walker and someone to steady her. Her ADLs have improved to supervision for dressing and personal hygiene, and she has demonstrated improved balance. As for her swallowing, she was upgraded to mechanical-soft food textures and thin liquids as her swallowing abilities have greatly improved. Her oxygen and feeding tube were eventually discharged, as well, as she continued to get better.

Billie was elated about her progress and was eager to go home with her sister’s help. In her own words, she said, “I’ve come a long way. I thought I was going to die. You all have helped me so much to get me where I am.”

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