In June, Billy Baker’s son stopped by with alarming news – the young man had tested positive for COVID-19.
“Boy, you better get outta here,” Billy said. The virus was a risk the 63-year-old telephone line worker from Broken Bow, Oklahoma, wasn’t eager to take.
Several days later, however, Billy visited the Choctaw National Health Center and learned, he, too, was positive. Symptoms, including shortness of breath, prompted him to go get checked out.
As pneumonia set in, Billy was placed on a ventilator. After several weeks in intensive care, he stabilized and doctors arranged transfer to Select Specialty Hospital – Fort Smith.
Billy’s primary goals were to heal, breathe independently and, eventually, be able to go hunting again. A physician-led team, including nurses and therapists, created a plan to get him there.
Respiratory therapists began ventilator liberation trials, gradually dialing back the settings, testing whether Billy’s lungs could do more work.
Simultaneously, physical and occupational therapists deployed a mobility program that included small movements to retrain muscles following extended illness. At first, Billy was so weak therapy had to be performed in short bursts, sometimes as little as 10 minutes at a time. Therapists used range of motion exercises on his arms and legs to keep blood flowing.
As Billy’s lungs healed, the mental fog lifted as well and he began participating more actively in therapy sessions.
Occupational therapists retrained him on daily living activities, such as brushing teeth and combing hair.
Pharmacists monitored medication and calibrated doses as he improved. Dietitians created a meal plan rich in healing nutrients, restoring Billy’s body after its viral fight.
Billy worked up to daily physical therapy and achieved his goal of walking down the hall and back without stopping.
Due to COVID-19 visitor restrictions, Billy’s family couldn’t visit but his care team arranged regular video chats to connect the family and keep Billy’s spirits high. It was the best part of each day, he said.
By September, Billy was breathing independently, caring for all of his needs and eating regular meals.
He departed for inpatient rehabilitation to continue building strength, endurance and lung capacity.
As the staff gave Billy a “clap out” down the hallway on his last day, he said “This is the only hospital I have ever been in where I can say that I am going to miss y’all, too.”