A Continuum of COVID Recovery Care
One of the worst parts of COVID-19 is that it spreads through the activities that create human connection like talking, singing and hugging.
James Shriver, 67, believes the hug he received from a family member, who later tested positive for the virus, infected him as well.
They both came down with symptoms days later. James went to the emergency room, but was sent home. He made a return trip, still short of breath and feeling weak. This time, he was admitted and within 24 hours was on a ventilator. He also began dialysis to address acute kidney injury.
James’ wife, Janet, shared that the family was called back to the hospital five days later because it appeared James might not survive. He pulled through that evening, only to have the same thing occur the next evening.
In all, James spent four weeks on a ventilator fighting for his life. Surgeons also placed airway support and a feeding tube. When James stabilized, Janet could consider the next step in his recovery. She reviewed several options and chose Select Specialty Hospital – Akron.
A month after falling ill, James arrived at Select Specialty Hospital unable to breathe, eat, speak or move on his own. He wanted to regain the independent life he had before contracting the virus, grow stronger and get off the ventilator.
A physician-led team of nurses, therapists, dietitians and pharmacists created a plan to help James heal.
Respiratory therapists led him through breathing, coughing and chest exercises, helping to build stamina. James responded well and within two and a half weeks, he liberated from the ventilator.
Physical therapists deployed the hospital’s mobility program. At first, they moved James’ arms and legs in passive, range of motion exercises to keep blood flowing. As he grew stronger, they encouraged him to sit up. Nurses routinely cared for his needs and encouraged him to keep moving in bed. Over time, he could sit at the bed’s edge and then moved into a chair, where he sat for longer periods of time.
Speech-language pathologists led James through mouth, tongue and jaw exercises, teaching him to form words and swallow safely. After testing ensured he wouldn’t draw food or liquid back into his lungs, James was cleared to resume a regular diet.
Due to COVID-19, visitation was restricted which was hard on Janet, but she took comfort knowing “there were people praying for him all over the world.” She was also grateful that the hospital team facilitated video chats between her and James.
When restrictions lifted, Janet shared, “He was still on the ventilator when I was able to come visit. I think me being able to come see him was the biggest turning point in his recovery.”
After a month at Select Specialty Hospital, James was ready for the next step in his recovery. His family chose Cleveland Clinic Rehabilitation Hospital, Edwin Shaw for inpatient rehabilitation care. Just before departing Select, James’ tracheostomy was removed and he returned to independent breathing.
When James arrived at Edwin Shaw, he had difficulties sitting in bed, could not stand or walk and quickly became exhausted with all activity. He also experienced frequent nausea. Gradually, with coordinated care from the interdisciplinary team, James overcame fatigue and began to participate more fully in therapy.
Physical therapists used Bioness, a light electrical stimulation device, to "wake up" muscle activity in his legs, improving balance and strength. James was also provided with a fabricated leg brace, which improved mobility and independence.
Simultaneously, James’ occupational therapists worked on retraining him for daily self-care tasks, such as bathing and dressing.
During his stay, James was able to overcome obstacles of anxiety and medical complications that made getting out of bed some days a challenge. By the end of his time at Edwin Shaw, he was able to complete all of his self-care tasks independently and use a walker to get around. James could go more than 200 feet, stand independently and negotiate 15 stairs.
Three weeks later, after Janet completed family training, James went home.
James was thrilled to rejoin his family and continued with outpatient therapy to rebuild stamina.