Michael's Story

Michael using a walker to stand up.

Michael Guidry, 60, was enjoying his retirement after years as a railroad car mechanic when he began feeling unwell. When his COVID-19 test came back positive, Michael spent the next week quarantining at home. Unfortunately, his symptoms did not improve and it became apparent he was in trouble.

Michael went to a local urgent care clinic where they found that his oxygen saturation levels were dangerously low. He was sent to St. Tammany Hospital and after spending two days in observation due to lack of ICU beds, Michael was admitted to the ICU and was immediately placed on a ventilator.

He spent the next 35 days on the machine as his health continued to decline. Doctors told Michael’s family it was time to say their final goodbyes and started the process of removing him from the ventilator. Two days later, however, as one of the doctors turned down Michael’s sedation, he opened his eyes and slowly began to respond. After a few more days, Michael underwent a tracheotomy, where an opening is surgically created through the neck into the trachea to allow direct access to a breathing tube. He continued to improve and 16 days later, Michael was fully liberated from the ventilator and was able to breathe on his own with supplemental oxygen for the first time in nearly two months.

Within two weeks, Michael was moved to a skilled nursing facility for longer term care. There, staff focused on weaning him off the supplemental oxygen and his feeding tube. After a few weeks, Michael had made good progress and was able to get out of bed with assistance and walk short distances with a walker and an aid by his side.

Knowing that he still had a long recovery road ahead, Michael’s doctor recommended an inpatient rehabilitation hospital to rebuild strength, stamina and mobility. Michael’s wife visited Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital and decided that it was the right place to continue his healing.

Upon arriving at Northshore, Michael and his team of physicians, nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists set achievable goals for his rehabilitation. “I just want to get moving again,” he said. “I wanted to come here, work hard and get results.”

From his first day at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, Michael’s team was impressed with his motivation to improve. In physical therapy, he worked to strengthen his legs and arms using weights and resistance bands in addition to abdominal exercises to help re-build his core. His team also had Michael practice shooting a basketball and using a stair-stepping machine to increase endurance. Occupational therapists worked with Michael on new ways to get dressed and bathe as independently as possible. They also helped him improve his overall safety awareness to prevent falls.

A key turning point in Michael’s rehabilitation occurred when he was finally able to walk independently again. “I felt stronger and better every day,” he said. After 14 days at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, Michael had made dramatic improvements in his mobility, strength and endurance. He also says that he learned that he has more willpower than he realized. On one difficult day, Michael recalls that he just didn’t feel like doing anything, but he didn’t give in, saying, “I got in that wheelchair and I went to therapy because I didn’t want to waste one moment while I was there.”

Upon his discharge from Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, Michael looked forward to going home, getting settled and resuming his normal activities. He was particularly excited to eat some home cooking after nearly five months away. Michael also credits the support of his family and friends with playing a vital role in his recovery.

Upon discharge, Michael had high praise for the Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital team, sharing that he had a great experience and everyone made him feel comfortable. When asked if he had any advice for someone going through a similar struggle, he shared: “Just don’t give up. Believe in miracles and keep the faith.”