Nicole's Story

Willie Jarrel Patient Success Story

As a long-time construction worker, Willie Jarrell was used to dealing with the aches and pains of a labor-intensive job.

This past summer, the 58-year-old began experiencing serious ongoing back pain. Scans and testing revealed the father of four needed spinal surgery. One procedure turned into three resulting in a shoulder abscess, osteomyelitis in a spinal disk and a large, blood-filled pocket in his chest requiring drainage.

Further complications included pneumonia which put Willie into respiratory failure and required him to be placed on a ventilator. When liberation trials failed, he was given a tracheostomy for airway support and feeding tube.

Needed extended healing and recovery time, Willie transferred to Select Specialty Hospital - South Atlanta.

When Willie arrived, he was unable to breath, speak, eat or walk. A physician-led team, including nurses and therapists, generated a treatment plan to restore Willie to his life and family.

The respiratory team worked with Willie ventilator liberation. A combination of deep breathing, chest and coughing exercises coupled with gradually reduced ventilator settings helped him free from the machine within two weeks.

Speech and respiratory therapists coordinated placement of a special valve in Willie’s tracheostomy that allowed more normal speech. He was thrilled when the care team coordinated a series of video chats with his wife, Teresa, their children and 10 grandchildren.

Pharmacists coordinated with the therapy team to provide appropriate pain management, antibiotic administration and overall medication delivery that maximized Willie’s ability to participate in therapy.

Willie also progressed with physical and occupational therapy. At first, he needed two people to sit in in bed and was unable to feed himself. Each day, therapy led range of motion, strength-building and resistance exercises to enhance arm and leg muscles. Nurses and aides assisted as Willie transferred to a chair, which began to build core strength.

Over time, he stood, took his first steps and began navigating the hallways. He worked up to going more than 150 feet with a rolling walker and therapist standing by.

Willie worked with speech therapists to restore swallowing reflexes. A combination of mouth, throat and jaw exercises allowed him to resume eating a regular diet. Shortly after, the airway support and feeding tube were removed.

Within a month, Willie had made significant progress and, having met all goals, and was cleared to return home.

Upon discharge, Willie shared: “I’m just humbled and thankful for what y’all’ve done for me.  The entire team was simply awesome. It was tough to be away from my family, but the team here was always ready to cheer me on.”