James's Story

James wearing a cervical neck brace and sitting in his hospital room.

James Roberts, 82, was born and raised in New Orleans. After retiring as district sales manager of an industrial equipment company, he was enjoying time with his wife of 45 years, Diana and their five children. Unfortunately, recurring pain was keeping James from enjoying life to the fullest. After seeing a doctor, he was diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spinal canal and/or the spinal nerve root passages in the neck.

James had cervical decompression fusion surgery at St. Tammany Parish Hospital. Following the procedure, James found that he was only able to walk short distances (less than eight feet). He had also fallen after returning home. Due to these ongoing issues, his clinical team at St. Tammany Parish Hospital recommended an inpatient rehabilitation hospital for further therapy.

James was admitted to Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital with goals to walk at his prior level, regain independence and be able to help his wife around the house.

James worked with occupational therapists to build upper body strength and endurance. Due to cervical precautions resulting from his surgery, his care team provided strategies on positioning and using adaptive equipment to aide in daily tasks such as dressing, bathing, grooming and toileting. Using grip and pinch exercises, James was able to improve his fine motor skills, which also allowed for increased independence. The team also helped James practice daily skills such as preparing meals and doing  household chores in anticipation of returning home. “I learned a lot about what to do at home,” said James. “I’m not afraid to move now.”

In physical therapy, James focused on improving mobility, balance and gait. He performed lower body exercises using resistance, including use of the SCIFIT recumbent stepper, to improve his endurance and leg strength. James also navigated different surfaces to help with balance as well as learn how to negotiate curbs and stairs.

James said he got a little bit better each day by challenging himself in small increments. The support of his wife cheering him on every step of the way was a huge source of encouragement.

Nearly two weeks after James was admitted, he was ready to return home walking up to 175 feet with the assistance of a walker, and fully independent in daily living activities.

James shared that his experience at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital has made him “stronger as a person, physically and mentally.”

He credits his positive attitude, wife and care team with helping him achieve his goals. “Listen to the therapists, and laugh as often as you can,” said James. “Have a good attitude, because it’s going to get better.”