Lee Frances Hicks, an 87-year-old retired teacher, enjoys activities such as housekeeping, cooking and spending time with her family – including her daughter with whom she lives. On a December morning, Lee awoke to find she had fallen out of her bed and was unable to summon enough strength or balance to get up. She laid on the floor next to her bed for nearly six hours until her daughter arrived home from work and called an ambulance. Lee was taken to the emergency department at Ochsner Medical Center - Northshore.
The team there performed a full medical workup, finding no significant abnormalities. However, Lee tested positive for COVID-19 causing her to spend two weeks in the hospital. As a result, her mobility and daily living activities were significantly impaired. Lee was so weak that she was unable to get in the car to go home upon discharge from the hospital. Her family had her evaluated, and it was determined she could benefit further from rehabilitation. Her family chose Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital.
Upon her arrival, Lee set goals for herself, including being able to walk with a cane as she had before and being independent enough to stay home alone while her daughter was at work. Lee began a regimen of physical and occupational therapy.
In physical therapy, Lee participated in exercises to regain balance and practiced walking on various surfaces. She began by walking short distance with daily increases in distance as her strength and endurance improved. In order to regain strength in her legs, she utilized a seated stepper machine.
Lee also participated in occupational therapy sessions that included activities utilizing small and large muscle groups while standing to increase her endurance and trunk control. She also worked with therapists to relearn how to do things like going to the bathroom, getting dressed and taking a shower independently. She was also taught how to use adaptive tools like a reacher and sock aide, which helped with dressing and taking her shoes off and on.
Normally, Lee’s daughter would be her primary source of support. Unfortunately, shortly after Lee was hospitalized, her daughter was also diagnosed with COVID-19 and hospitalized so Lee’s granddaughter, Brittany, quickly stepped in to help. Brittany visited frequently and attended family training sessions so she was prepared to care for her grandmother after discharge.
Throughout her stay, Lee focused on a goal that her grandson wrote for her on the whiteboard in her room: “To do for myself and to go home.” A week after arriving, that is exactly what she did. Upon discharge, Lee was looking forward to being home and returning to her daily life. She planned to receive home health to continue her journey back to independence.
When asked what advice she had for other individuals going through a similar struggle, Lee said, “Cooperate; try to do whatever they tell you because it will benefit you.”