Brittany Jackson, a 29-year-old personal care companion for mentally challenged adults, began experiencing migraines and dizziness almost daily, until one day she passed out in the front yard of her home. Her family rushed her to the hospital where a CT scan revealed a colloid cyst on Brittany’s brain. She underwent a craniotomy to remove the cyst.
Following the surgery, Brittany returned home, however less than a month later she began experiencing fever and shortness of breath. At an appointment with her primary care physician, she tested positive for COVID-19. A chest X-ray also confirmed pneumonia. “The X-ray was completely white because my lungs were filled with fluid,” said Brittany.
Brittany was admitted to Ochsner Medical Center – Northshore, transferred to the ICU, intubated and placed on mechanical ventilation two days later. After 20 days, she successfully liberated from the ventilator and was stable enough to transfer to a long-term acute care unit. Shortly thereafter, she was ready for the next step of her recovery at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital.
Brittany faced many challenges upon her arrival, including impaired mobility, decreased endurance and generalized weakness. She was also unable to feed herself due to hand tremors. Her goals were to walk and climb stairs as well as feed, dress and care for herself.
When Brittany began her work with her therapy team, she was unable to stand or walk. Her physical therapy sessions included leg exercises, practicing walking and standing using a body weight support harness, hip rotation exercises and using a SCIFIT recumbent stepper to improve endurance and strength in her lower body. Brittany increased her upper body strength by using an arm bike and doing exercises using a dowel and weights.
In occupational therapy, Brittany practiced daily living activities, increasing her level of independence. She also learned to use adaptive equipment such as a sock aid, shoehorn, grabber and reacher. Through her work in occupational therapy, Brittany was eventually able to perform her self-care tasks of dressing, bathing and toileting with balance supervision.
Brittany clearly remembers the turning point in her treatment. “That first day using the harness, I was only able to take four steps, it was very discouraging,” said Brittany. However, as her therapy progressed, she was able to increase her walking distance. “I walked 106 feet, then turned around and walked another 103 feet. I climbed four stairs.” Her outlook immediately improved.
Brittany’s family was also key to her recovery visiting often to provide moral support. “My sister would exercise my legs for me when she came to visit, and my mom gave me massages and helped with skin care,” said Brittany. Family was also her biggest motivation for getting home. While she was hospitalized, Brittany welcomed a new niece who she was excited to meet for the first time.
After 10 days, Brittany was ready to return home to her family, and while she did not reach full independence with her goals of walking and stairs, her therapists were confident with continued outpatient physical and occupational therapy, she will soon be back to the life she knew before becoming ill.
When asked to describe her experience at Northshore Rehabilitation, Brittany said, “Everyone was so kind and helpful. I feel like I wouldn’t have come as far as I did without being here.”