Sharon Warner doesn’t sit still for long. When the Abita Springs, LA resident isn’t working at Dollar Tree, she can be found at her second job at Lions Elementary School. But juggling jobs stopped quickly in May, when Sharon’s car hit a tree and she was rushed to St. Tammany Hospital. The medical team diagnosed and performed emergency surgery for shattered vertebrae the 64-year-old sustained. One week later, she had a follow up surgery on her neck for further corrective positioning of her spinal bones.
When Sharon stabilized, the St. Tammany team provided some basic physical therapy and recommended inpatient rehabilitation after discharge. Sharon and her family discussed her options with the medical team and close friends and chose Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital for her recovery.
Upon admission, Sharon had significant left-side weakness that prevented her from walking or performing basic self-care tasks like dressing, preparing meals or moving independently. She told her team, her goal was to regain controlled use of her hands and feet again, “From day one I was determined to get better and reclaim my independence,” she said.
Sharon’s care team assessed her and developed a personalized care plan. It started with physical therapy (PT) working on her arm and leg strength. PTs supported Sharon while she took her first steps in the parallel bars. In time, she further developed her leg strength and transitioned to a rolling walker. Her therapy team built on that foundation, increasing Sharon’s leg strength by using a stair stepper, therapy bands and weights. Over the course of the next few weeks, Sharon progressed to walking over 400 feet with the use of a cane.
Meanwhile, occupational therapy (OT), worked with Sharon on exercises that boosted her arm and hand strength, employing weights, an arm bike, stretch bands and electrical stimulation. The latter sends low level electric pulses to muscles to increase blood flow which helps strengthen and repair muscles. OTs also taught Sharon alternate ways of completing basic self-care tasks by using adaptive devices such as a reacher which extends one’s reach, and a sock aide that lengthens a patient’s reach and serves as tool to assist in putting on socks. Sharon shared that her family was wonderful throughout her entire recovery process. She said, “They never left my side and they showed me so much love and support.” She said that although she has typically been the person who does everything for everyone else, the accident has taught her to be patient and allow others to help her. She said, “I have learned that I need to accept the help of my family.”
Unafraid of hard work, Sharon put the effort into her therapy sessions, continually pressing herself to do more. It paid off. After 22 days in rehabilitation, Sharon was able to care for herself – from toileting to basic meal prep and dressing. She was ready to be discharged and return home and eventually to work.
When asked about her experience at Northshore Rehabilitation Hospital, Sharon said, “It has been wonderful. The employees here all have a beautiful outlook and upbeat attitude.”
Sharon said she plans to continue working on her strength and endurance with outpatient therapy. On the personal side, she has simpler plans that finally include sitting still. She looks forward to returning home, sitting outside and enjoying the sunshine.