Vasille's Story

Vasile sitting independently in a chair in his hospital room without feeding tube or airway support.

Restoring a beloved priest to his community

For 52 years, Vasile Barsan has faithfully ministered to the Romanian Orthodox Christian community as a priest. In December 2019, it was Vasile’s turn to receive prayers.

The 79-year-old, recovering from pneumonia and a urinary tract infection, suddenly became short of breath. His family took him to the local hospital’s emergency room, where he quickly declined.

Doctors placed Vasile on a breathing tube and ventilator while they continued running tests, eventually determining he was in septic shock. There were other, life-threatening complications, including chronic heart failure, an irregular heartbeat and water on his lungs.

For more than three weeks, Vasile fought for his life. Additional surgeries required airway support and a feeding tube. Powerful intravenous antibiotics coursed through his body. The New Year brought renewed hope to the family.

On January 2, he was ready to make the next step in his recovery journey. He transferred to Select Specialty Hospital – Canton, a critical illness recovery hospital with experience treating medically complex patients.

Vasile’s wife and daughter wanted to get him home, back to the congregation and Romanian community he cherished.

A physician-led team of therapists and nurses created a plan to get him there.

Respiratory therapists monitored his breathing and gradually reduced the machine’s settings, allowing his lungs to take over. A valve was inserted into his breathing tube, allowing him to take in more oxygen and speak. Then, he no longer needed the machine to breathe for him. His airway support was continued for a short time before it, too, was removed and Vasile breathed independently.

At the same time, physical and occupational therapists put Vasile on our mobility program, which some studies have shown increases a patient’s ability to liberate from the ventilator. Weakened by more than a month in a hospital bed, Vasile relearned how to sit up, roll and move to a chair. Physical therapists guided him through exercises with small weights and resistance bands on his arms and legs.

Speech-language pathologists worked on the muscles of Vasile’s throat and mouth, preparing him to swallow safely and eat regular meals again. He transitioned from thickened liquids and pureed foods to a regular diet within a few weeks.

By the end of January, Vasile was ready for the next phase of recovery. Just before departing for an inpatient rehabilitation hospital, he was able to take six steps with a physical therapist assisting.

Vasile is looking forward to returning home. He and his family are grateful for all the support and care they received from the doctors and hospital team.