Sally Wallace, 55, grew up in a small town in Iowa with a population of just 650 people. She and her husband, Ernest, then moved to Sanger and have lived in the area for many years. Sally works as a customer operations analyst, a job that requires multitasking and quick decision-making. Sally and Ernest live close to their children and enjoy doing activities with the whole family including going to Lake Ray Roberts for fishing and camping.
Over the past few years, Sally’s family had been through several health-related challenges. Most recently, both Sally and Ernest were hospitalized with COVID-19. Their household started exhibiting symptoms including headache, body aches and fever. Upon getting tested, both were positive. They were told to return home, monitor their oxygen saturation and go to the emergency department if it dropped below 90 percent. Ernest needed to be go to the emergency room first, followed by Sally a day later. “It was getting bad [in our area] and we were very lucky to get beds,” Sally said. Both were quickly admitted to the hospital.
Ernest was hospitalized for two weeks, but Sally’s condition required intubation, when a tube is inserted through a person's mouth or nose, then down into the trachea to allow air to be delivered to the lungs. She also required a feeding tube as she was unable to eat or drink with the breathing tube in place.
Ultimately, Sally was hospitalized for 56 days and ended up losing a total of 27 pounds. She does not recall much about her hospitalization as she was under sedation and floating in and out of consciousness. Eventually, her lungs recovered enough for the breathing tube to be removed, requiring oxygen only through a nasal cannula. Sally’s feeding tube was also removed, leaving her able to eat and drink on her own again.
As her condition improved and discharge from Medical City Denton hospital approached, Sally and her physicians discussed that she needed inpatient rehabilitation before being able to return home safely. Sally had heard about Select Rehabilitation Hospital of Denton from family and friends decided that it was the best place to continue her recovery.
When Sally first arrived at Select Rehabilitation Hospital of Denton, she was unable to walk, stand up from a chair, get dressed or feed herself without maximum assistance. She was also having difficulty maintaining her blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation in a safe range, requiring multiple medications and supplemental oxygen. Sally was also struggling with dizziness and unsteadiness when she was up on her feet or rolling over in bed.
Her goals upon admission were to be able to get back home and feel as normal as possible. Sally’s son was getting married in a few weeks and she wanted to regain the energy and stamina to participate in the festivities. Sally’s physician-led team of nurses and physical, occupational and speech therapists created a treatment plan to get her to the wedding.
Sally and her speech-language pathologist worked to improve memory and problem-solving skills. They worked with Sally on diaphragmatic breathing to help her breathe more easily without supplemental oxygen and provided education on techniques and modifications to help return to home and work. Sally’s speech-language pathologist implemented several strategies to manage the anxiety Sally was experiencing, including aromatherapy and hanging encouraging Bible verses on the walls to provide comfort.
In occupational therapy, Sally and her therapists focused on building standing tolerance so she could perform personal care activities. Therapists also introduced different pieces of adaptive equipment to make daily activities easier and more achievable. Sally performed exercises and used specialized equipment to build up her arm strength and improve fine motor skills in her hands.
Physical therapists started Sally’s reintroduction to walking using a rolling walker. At first, she was only able to go short distances but eventually progressed to walking down the hospital’s long hallways. Therapists also challenged Sally’s standing balance, endurance and functional leg strength with a variety of equipment. Because she would get out of breath easily, Sally received education on energy conservation techniques and was taught to monitor her vitals and body’s response to activities. Her physical therapists made sure to discuss appropriate assistive devices and practiced getting in and out of a car safely in preparation for her discharge.
Sally’s family played an important role during her COVID-19 battle and subsequent recovery. While she was in and out of consciousness in the ICU, they brought a radio for her room so Sally could listen to her favorite Christian music. Once she arrived at Select Rehabilitation Hospital of Denton, she received regular visits from her family. Ernest was able to participate in family training, where he was prepared to help her as needed once she returned home.
After 12 days of intensive rehabilitative therapy, Sally was discharged from Select Rehabilitation Hospital of Denton. A few weeks later, she was able to enjoy her son’s wedding day before starting outpatient physical therapy.
Sally was continuing to deal with dizziness and elevated heart rate after even mild exertion. In her outpatient sessions, Sally and her therapists continued to work on building endurance using a stair stepper and walking program while also strengthening her legs with targeted exercises. Therapists closely monitored her blood pressure and pulse rate during exercise and also treated her vertigo.
By the time that she was finished with her outpatient therapy, Sally was able to walk unassisted and had returned to many of her daily activities, including meal preparation and light housework. While she still has to take breaks throughout the day as she continues to recover from the impact of COVID-19, Sally knows that she is well on her way to full recovery.
When asked about her overall experience at Select Rehabilitation Hospital of Denton, Sally shared, “The staff was always very encouraging and positive which kept me motivated towards my goals.” She also said that her experience with COVID-19 taught her of the importance of not worrying about the little things and never giving up, adding, “There is still hope even when it doesn’t seem that there is.”