Michele's story

Michele smiling in her hospital bed with her nurse by her side.

Michele Satterwhite had been sick for several days. When the 43-year-old began experiencing confusion and difficulty speaking, her husband, Cliff, took her to the emergency room.

There, testing uncovered pneumonia and she was admitted. Two days later, Michele fell into respiratory failure and was placed on a ventilator.

She endured complications including a gastrointestinal bleed and kidney failure requiring dialysis. Unable to liberate from the ventilator, Michele received a tracheostomy for airway support and feeding tube.

One month later, she stabilized and was transferred to Select Specialty Hospital – Saginaw for ventilator liberation and extended recovery.

Michele had two big goals -- to return to independence and get home to Cliff.

A physician-led team, including nurses and therapists, created a recovery plan to make it happen.

Respiratory therapists began slowly reducing Michele’s ventilator settings, preparing her lungs to take over more of the work. Gradually, her airway support tube was replaced by smaller ones until she no longer needed assistance.

Simultaneously, physical and occupational therapists helped Michele regain muscle strength. She began sitting at the bed’s edge and progressed to transitioning to a chair. Over several weeks of targeted sessions, she stood and took several steps.

Speech therapists also worked to restore her ability to speak and eat. To reintroduce eating by mouth, they began with ice chips and progressed to thicker liquids until Michele was able to eat solid food. Speech therapists also led mouth and throat exercises, which allowed Michelle to speak more clearly.

After a month at Select Specialty Hospital, Michele was strong enough to transition to the next level of recovery, an inpatient rehabilitation hospital, where she continued to build strength before returning home.