Darren Bourgeois is a 54-year-old salesman, husband and father of four, who was born and raised in Covington, Louisiana. He enjoys outdoor hobbies including fishing and gardening. After his whole family became ill with COVID-19, Darren thought he was in the clear since he was the only one not showing symptoms. Just as everyone else was starting to feel better, he started to go downhill to the point that he sought treatment at the St. Tammany Parish Hospital emergency department.
Within hours of arriving at the hospital, Darren was diagnosed with COVID pneumonia and put on a ventilator to save his life. He was on the breathing machine for 19 days and spent a total of four weeks in the acute care hospital. Once he was able to liberate, Darren was very confused and struggled to reorient himself to what was going on, saying “It felt like I was in a dream-like state.”
Once medically stable, Darren transferred to Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital for the next step in his recovery journey. Upon admission, he was very weak due to his lengthy hospitalization. Darren’s goal included improving muscle strength and regaining his mobility and independence.
Because Darren’s limitations where primarily due loss of strength and endurance, his physical therapy regimen was tailored to address those areas. To improve lower body strength, Darren utilized a seated stepper machine and performed various leg exercises using therapy resistance bands. He performed plank exercises and push-ups to strengthen his upper body as well as abdominal crunches to increase core strength. The combination of these exercises as well as relearning how to walk allowed him to achieve more independence and transfer to and from various surfaces such as his bed and chair.
Occupational therapy honed in on exercises for the upper body and techniques to promote independence in everyday tasks. By increasing his overall endurance and strength, Darren was eventually able to dress, bathe and toilet on his own. Therapists also provided safety education such as learning how to pace himself during activity to prevent falls.
Darren said his turning point at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital was when his muscles were extremely tired after a particularly hard therapy session. He said that’s when he realized his body was responding and he was improving. Darren also said he felt a great deal of support from his therapy team. “From the moment the staff got me from my car to the hospital, they gave me the sense that there was no option other than being successful.”
After nine days, Darren used a rolling walker to leave the hospital and return home to his family. He looked forward to spending time in the sunshine and fresh air and getting back to gardening. He shared that his journey helped him realize he’d been taking little things for granted.
Before departing, Darren offered advice for others on a similar path: “Trust the professionals and their knowledge because they know how to help you during what may be the worst time in your life.”