Ron's Story

When a hamburger tastes like victory

Ronald Holby was trying to stay out of the hospital during the coronavirus pandemic. But when Ron’s daughter, a nurse, saw how much pain her 74-year-old father was in, she drove him to the emergency room.

He had a swollen abdomen and pain in his belly and chest. Testing discovered a small hole in his colon. The initial decision to treat it with antibiotics and a feeding tube was abandoned when Ron’s condition worsened. He was rushed into surgery, where he underwent an extensive abdominal operation. He was placed on a ventilator and needed three more rounds of surgery to clear the infection.

From there, Ron’s kidneys started failing and he required dialysis. He was removed from the ventilator, but needed supplemental oxygen and a feeding tube. Once he stabilized, his family considered the next step in care. They chose Select Specialty Hospital – Johnstown for its experience caring for medically complex patients.

Ron arrived weak, unable to eat, move or care for his personal needs. His goals included getting off dialysis and oxygen support and relearning how to eat.

A physician-led team of nurses, therapists, pharmacists and dietitians jumped into action. They reviewed Ron’s medical file and consulted pulmonology, nephrology and therapy.

On the first day, the team started our mobility program helping Ron out of bed and into a chair.  He didn’t sit long, but it was enough to show that recovery was possible. Nurses and physical therapists got Ron up twice a day after that. The increased movement and blood flow decreased his supplemental oxygen needs and the tube at his nose was removed.

Over time, Ron’s kidneys recovered and dialysis was discontinued.

He remembers the speech therapist who he joked was there “sometimes too much” to exercise neck, throat and jaw muscles. All the hard work paid off when Ron passed a swallow test, demonstrating he could eat without aspirating. Ron’s first request? A hamburger. Our dietary staff brought one which he enjoyed immensely.

Ron’s wife and daughter couldn’t visit in person, due to the pandemic. However, his care team ensured they had regular video chat sessions. Our medical team also called the family daily to go over Ron’s clinical progress.

After a little more than month with us, Ron was well enough to go home. He was eager to see his grandchildren and four dogs again. Ron hopes to spend time this summer at the family’s favorite campground.

Ron is also anxious to get back to work on his farm, but knows he needs to take it easy as his body continues to recuperate.