Amber's Story

A father’s love – and our team – bring a beloved daughter home

Merv Poe found his daughter Amber unconscious on the floor and he feared the worst. The 41-year-old has cerebral palsy and survived several health scares over the years.

Rushed to the emergency room, doctors suspected that Amber had sucked liquid or food back into her lungs, creating an infection. She was placed her on a ventilator in the emergency room, with surgeons inserting airway support several days later.

“Her doctors at the time told me her chance of survival was very slim,” Merv said.  “If she did survive, she would likely be on a ventilator for the rest of her life and have to live at a nursing home for long- term ventilator patients.  She’s my baby girl, so that was very hard to hear.”

Merv has been her main source of support since she was an infant and always hoped his love, along with the rest of the family, would be enough to give her a long life.

Against the odds, Amber stabilized, still fully dependent on tubes to supply oxygen and nutrition. She couldn’t move and was barely conscious. Merv decided to try one more avenue to help his daughter – a stay at a critical illness recovery hospital, where medically complex patients gain additional healing and recovery time.

After 14 days in the hospital, Amber transferred to Select Specialty Hospital-Northern Kentucky.  She was sedated and not responding.

“At first, I thought this was her final step, she would die there and would never get to return home with me.  However, the staff provided me so much encouragement and hope,” Merv said.

A physician-led team of nurses and therapists created a plan to help Amber regain as much of her life as possible.

Respiratory therapists assessed her breathing ability and trialed time off the ventilator, allowing her lungs to do more work. To Merv’s delight, she began to progress.

Days passed and Amber kept improving. Merv set a new goal for Amber – taking her home on a ventilator. The respiratory team, however, believed Amber could progress further.

Amber, now more fully awake, participated in our mobility program, sitting up in bed, at its edge and moving to a chair. As she grew stronger, physical therapists helped her stand and take a few small steps. Nursing, physical and occupational therapy had n getting her up, as each session improved her overall health. Studies have shown that even simple exercises can help critically ill patients better prepare to liberate from ventilators.

When Amber met that goal, Merv breathed a huge sigh of relief.  He knew she’d be okay and was willing to take Amber home with permanent airway support. Still, the respiratory team thought Amber could accomplish more.  In a few weeks, her family and care team celebrated as airway support was removed.  Amber was back to communicating with her family, making eye contact and vocalizing sounds.

Against all expectations, except her dad’s and the Select care team, the Poes returned home with Amber December 4. They looked forward to celebrating Christmas as a family and rejoicing in Amber’s improving health.

“I would recommend that anyone going through something like this, go straight to Select, as soon as you can go,” Merv said. “The staff at Select Specialty Hospital – Northern Kentucky have been like a second family to us."