In August, persistent foot pain sent Jacqueline Alston to the emergency room.
Scans and testing revealed osteomyelitis, a bone infection, in the upper right portion of her foot. Despite antibiotic intervention, the damage was significant. In early September, surgeons made the difficult decision to amputate half of it.
It was a devastating setback, but Jacqueline, 64, was determined to get back to the life she enjoyed with her husband and son. She chose Select Specialty Hospital – Hampton Roads for additional healing and recovery time.
Jacqueline’s biggest goal was to regain mobility, including wheelchair transfers and preparation for inpatient rehabilitation, where she would relearn how to walk.
A physician-led team, including nurses and therapists, created a plan to help Jacqueline discover new avenues for independence.
While pharmacists monitored the intravenous antibiotics that continued to clear infection from Jacqueline’s bloodstream, physical and occupational therapists began a mobility program.
They started with in-bed exercises and stretches to improve flexibility and range of motion. Jacqueline worked up to sitting in bed, at its edge and transferring to a chair with decreasing amounts of support.
“The physical and occupational therapy teams were the most helpful in my recovery because they never gave up on me,” she said. “They encouraged and motivated me when I did not think I could do it.”
Equal to the physical challenges of recovery, dealing with the emotional aspects of amputation was difficult. Jacqueline’s care team was right there to reassure that while life would be different, it was not over.
“I accepted the fact that I would be OK without half my foot,” Jacqueline said. “I have peace.”
Continuing to work with physical and occupational therapy, she built upper body strength, balance and stamina. Her milestone moment came when she could transfer in and out of a wheelchair with no assistance.
“I knew I was heading down the home stretch,” Jacqueline said.
By October, she was ready for the next phase of recovery and departed, as planned, for inpatient rehabilitation at Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital, the next level of care in the Select Medical continuum.
There, a coordinated team of doctors, nurses and assistants oversaw her nutritional, physical, emotional and rehabilitation needs. For several weeks, Jacqueline worked with physical and occupational therapists three to four hours a day to rebuild strength and endurance.
When Jacqueline departed for home, she was ready to take on whatever came next, but most of all she couldn’t wait to get back to her family.