Returning a beloved nurse and grandmother to her community
Carol Hieronimus, 67, is an active grandmother and licensed practical nurse (LPN) at a small rural community clinic in Southwest Minnesota.
On Nov. 9, 2019, the caretaker became the patient. A car in which she was riding rear-ended a piece of farm equipment on the highway.
Emergency crews extracted her from the vehicle and an ambulance rushed Carol to the hospital in grave condition. She had multiple, complex injuries, including what’s known as an open-book pelvic fracture. The pelvis, typically curved, breaks and flattens. Severe blood loss dropped her blood pressure to dangerous levels. Physicians stabilized Carol and a medical helicopter transferred her to a larger facility.
Surgeons repaired her shattered bones, but it would be 12-plus weeks before Carol could put weight on her lower body and a month and a half before she could use her right arm.
Because of her significant orthopedic recovery needs, Carol’s doctors referred her to Select Specialty Hospital – South Dakota, which specializes in offering medically complex patients additional healing and recovery time.
Carol arrived November 16 with a singular goal – become strong enough to move to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital, and get back home to her husband, family and job as an LPN.
A physician-led team of therapists, nurses, dietitians and pharmacists created a plan to help Carol achieve them.
Occupational therapists concentrated on exercises, including hand weights that allowed Carol to maintain strength in her left arm. They also ensured Carol’s efforts were gentle enough to allow her pelvis and broken right arm to heal.
Pharmacists monitored medication, including those for intravenous pain, to ensure optimal relief. Nurses helped her change position frequently to avoid pressure injuries and ensured she was comfortable. Dietitians created a meal plan rich in healing nutrients.
Carol had high praise for all the teams, saying she was comfortable, well cared for and had her needs met with compassion at every turn.
After several weeks, Carol’s physicians who visited regularly, gave her clearance to begin more vigorous therapy.
The uptick in activity required much help from physical and occupational therapists. She began with four people helping her sit up, roll and move to the edge of the bed. Carol was determined and asked for exercises she could do in bed, on her own. Over time, she could do it herself.
As the holidays approached, Carol was ready to push herself once more. With the help of physical therapists, she stood up. It was a turning point, Carol said, because she realized all her other goals were possible.
Her family lived an hour away and visited periodically to lift her spirits.
As the end of her stay approached, Carol met another milestone, walking 75 feet with her walker and accompanied by a physical therapist.
On January 29, Carol met her goal of becoming well enough to transfer to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital, where she underwent 10 days of intense physical and occupational therapy before returning home.
She’s looking forward to continuing to heal and resuming her active life.