Leo's Story

Leo wearing a cervical neck brace, sitting at a table and receiving electronic stimulation for his arm.

Leo Machado, 66, had been living on his own in Diamondhead, MS. However, when his health and ability to walk began to decline in December, he moved in with his niece Christi, who became his primary caregiver. In May, Leo made an appointment with his primary care physician to follow up on his atrial fibrillation, or abnormal heart rhythm, and newly diagnosed rheumatologic disorders. His doctor ordered an MRI which revealed he had a cervical myelopathy, compression of the spinal cord in the neck. Due to his pre-existing conditions, Leo was sent to Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans to meet with a neurosurgeon who recommended and performed a spinal decompression and fusion surgery. After that procedure was completed, Leo’s atrial fibrillation was also treated.

A week later, Leo was medically stable and ready to continue his recovery journey at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital. Although he had some mobility issues prior to his surgery, he had been able to walk using a walker and was mostly independent with self-care.  Following his hospitalization and surgery however, he experienced significant loss of function in his left arm, dexterity in his right hand and was unable to walk. Upon admission, Leo was very clear about what his goals were, “I wanted to strengthen my legs and walk on my own.”

Physical therapy activities that were beneficial to Leo included walking with the Tollos bodyweight support harness system, at the parallel bars and on uneven surfaces as well as stair climbing, sit-to-stand and car transfer practice – all to improve coordination, balance and endurance.

In occupational therapy, Leo performed self-care tasks, increasing his independence daily. He also benefited from electrical stimulation therapy on his hands and arms to retrain his muscles to work properly. Therapists also had Leo perform grip strengthening exercises using therapy putty, and they provided home safety education.

Leo credits his therapy team with helping him progress towards his goals.  “The therapists that took care of me were great. They helped me to get my legs straight and my hands stronger, and they gave me the opportunity to try to walk.”

Just over a week into his stay, Leo recalls a turning point in his recovery. “My physical therapist said ‘let’s go to the parallel bars and see what you can do.’  And I held on to the bars, and I walked. Then she said ‘let the bar go and walk to me.’  And when I did it, it was very emotional.”

Leo’s niece, Christi was his primary family support even prior to his hospitalization. She attended therapy sessions and went through training to assist Leo upon discharge.

After 13 days at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, Leo was ready to return home.  He said he was most looking forward to increased independence as he continues to improve.  “I want to walk to my car and be able to drive myself where I need to go.”