Susan's Story

Susan Kirschner smiles with two of her therapists.

"It’s been a long, and painful journey.” That’s how Susan Kirschner summarizes years of medical challenges including neck injuries, multiple surgeries, spinal cord implants and the resulting difficulties with neuropathy, pain and overall weakness. Despite her complex medical history forcing an early retirement, the 63-year-old remained independent, caring for herself and her teenage daughter, Emily. Fate wasn’t done with Susan though, her determination was tested again when a car accident exacerbated her back and hip pain. It necessitated surgery to replace her damaged spinal cord stimulator – an implanted device that sends low levels of electricity directly into the spinal cord to relieve pain.

Following surgery, Susan experienced complications from anesthesia and her expected one-day stay turned into five. She quickly deteriorated, with lost mobility, increased pain, elevated blood sugar levels and skin issues due to her prolonged amount of time in bed. Recovery felt out of reach.

Doctors recommended Susan transfer to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital for recovery. For that, Susan chose Select Rehabilitation Hospital of Denton with a goal of reclaiming her health and independence.

Upon admission, the physician-led interdisciplinary team evaluated Susan who required help getting out of bed and had limited, strength, balance and endurance for walking. She also needed assistance dressing and eating due to weakness and tremors. Susan understood there was a lot of work ahead and questioned, "What Select would do that the hospital hasn't already done?"

The physical therapy (PT) team got to work. They employed strength training with weights, resistance bands and balance training using a gait belt – a safety device for patients with mobility issues. The belt allows therapists to guide and assist patient movement. These therapies worked in concert to reduce Susan’s fall risk, increase standing endurance and improve overall balance. In just a week, Susan transitioned to walking with assistive devices including a walker and a cane. In preparation for her return home, PT shared home modifications to avoid potential trip and fall hazards such as removing rugs and clearing pathways of furniture and other obstacles.

Susan's occupational therapists worked to return her independence increasing her mobility for daily tasks, including her self-care needs such as dressing and grooming. They did this by training her on adaptive equipment including a reacher, a long-handled shoe horn and a long-handled sponge which extended her ability to reach objects, put on her shoes and bathe, respectively.

Susan appreciated the team approach to her care. “I felt everyone addressed my needs and communicated with one another well,” said Susan. The nurses demonstrated care and attentiveness to my medical needs, and the physicians were so down to earth. The team treated me with the discharge plan in mind, and worked together to make it happen.”

In two weeks, Susan was walking over 300 feet with an assistive device, getting out of bed or a chair unassisted and completing all self-care and household tasks using adaptive equipment. Triumphant, she was ready to return home with plans to continue building her strength through outpatient therapy.

Recalling her initial limitations, Susan marveled at her progress: “They gave me back my independence. Even though I may still move slowly and will continue to work with outpatient physical therapy, I can independently care for myself. I didn't know I was going to be this strong, alert and able to walk around. It's truly a miracle!"

*Patient success stories from across our hospital network.