Danell's story

Danell standing by her bed using a walker for support

Danell Merritt, a 56-year-old legal secretary from Slidell, Louisiana, was on her way to work one morning when the car in front of her came to a sudden and immediate stop. Danell didn’t have enough time to react and doesn’t remember the impact of the accident, which also involved two other cars. She was taken to University Hospital, where she spent the next three weeks, including two days in the trauma ICU. She suffered fractures of her C7 vertebrae, sternum and seven ribs. Danell also had a crushed heel, a broken ankle, a break in the socket of her right hip and a broken femur – all injuries that required corrective surgery. Following the procedures, Danell was sedated and her leg was put in traction.

As Danell was getting ready for discharge, her medical team recommended she go to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital for further recovery. A family friend recommended Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, and after doing her own research, Danell agreed it would be a good fit.

When Danell first arrived at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, her primary goal was to go home and be fully independent. She worked with a team of physical and occupational therapists to help make that happen.

Through a combination of education, training and exercises, Danell began building strength and becoming more independent in everyday activities such as showering and grooming. Occupational therapists taught her how to transfer independently from one surface to another and stand with the walker while using grab bars in the bathroom to transfer and get dressed and undressed. They also provided Danell with assistive devices such as a dressing stick, an out of reach item retriever and a leg lifter that she would be able to take home.

In physical therapy, she worked on standing and seated leg strengthening exercises while maintaining weight-bearing precautions. Therapists also showed Danell how to use the walker to increase her lower body strength and get around in order to perform daily living activities – all in preparation for her return home.

Danell’s “ah-ha” moment was about eight days prior to her discharge. She was lying in bed thinking about how much further she had to go before she would be ready to return home. She focused on her goal, and it gave her the motivation she needed to push even harder. Danell said her family’s support also helped her immensely – with her sister, Jennifer coming to visit and helping her with day-to-day needs and her mother providing emotional support.

After 21 days, Danell was ready to return home to her dog and get back to her life before the accident. While Danell was excited to get back home, it was also bittersweet because she had formed a bond with her Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital care team during her stay, saying, “I would recommend this place and team to anyone who needed it. I truly felt like family here.”

Two important lessons Danell learned throughout her journey is that she has the perseverance to do just about anything she sets her mind to and everything is a learning experience.