Dr. William “Bill” Ferrante, 86, enjoys spending time with his wife of 61 years, Judith. Nothing makes the couple happier than being with their five children, 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Prior to his retirement, Bill was a gastroenterologist in the New Orleans area for more than 50 years.
In 2019, Bill was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. A year later, he underwent a procedure to fix a hole in his atrial septum, a wall that separates the upper chambers in his heart. Shortly after returning home from surgery, he began experiencing weakness, fatigue, chills and shortness of breath. Concerned that he was having complications from the surgery, Bill was taken by ambulance to the emergency department at St. Tammany Parish Hospital, where he tested positive for COVID-19. Although he was never intubated, Bill remained hospitalized for nearly two weeks, including time in the ICU, until he was deemed stable enough to be transferred to Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital.
Upon his arrival, Bill’s biggest obstacle to overcome was generalized weakness. “I was about as worn out physically and mentally as I’ve ever been in my life. I couldn’t do anything,” said Bill. He set achievable goals for himself, including walking, performing self-care tasks independently and as he put it, “trying to function normally without being a burden to anyone.” Bill also added the ability to navigate stairs as there were many required to enter his home.
During his time at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, Bill participated in many different therapies in order to achieve his list of goals. In physical therapy, most of the work centered around walking -- increasing distance, practicing turns and walking on uneven surfaces to simulate what he might encounter when returning home. These sessions also included picking up objects, practicing car transfers and climbing steps. In occupational therapy, Bill practiced self-care skills such as dressing, grooming and bathing. Therapists also taught him to use assistive devices such as a dressing stick, reacher and sock aid to help make tasks easier.
Two weeks after arriving, Bill was ready to return home to his family. He said his wife and children were his biggest support system throughout his journey, and he was looking forward to sitting down and eating a good meal with them. He also couldn’t wait to hug his wife, whom he hadn’t seen in almost a month due to COVID-19 visitation restrictions. He was also looking forward to meeting his two additional great-grandchildren on the way.
At the time of discharge, Bill was able to do all of his self-care needs unassisted. He was also walking 400-500 steps per day and climbing six stairs. Bill’s unique perspective as both a patient and a doctor taught him something new about himself during the rehabilitation process. “Being a physician, I was never involved in this part of the healing process,” said Bill. “I learned a lot about the intricacies of physical and occupational therapy; each little movement has a scientific reason for doing it.” Most importantly, he learned to always keep a positive attitude and he credits that to his successful recovery.
Judy recently provided an update on Bill’s continued recovery. After discharge, he continued working on rebuilding his strength and endurance with home health. After being discharged from home health, he began doing cardiac rehabilitation at an outpatient center. He is also a board member at the local hospital and recently attended two meetings. He still does not drive, but Judy is always by his side to help out. Bill is looking forward to celebrating his upcoming 87th birthday with his whole family, including his two new great-grandchildren, born just two weeks apart. “God is good,” said Judy.