Wanda Davis graduated from therapy on Friday, March 1, at Life Care Center of Cleveland, going home, 365 days after a barrage of medical complications began.
“I’m a miracle – I believe that wholeheartedly,” said Ms. Davis. “There’s no reason medically I should be alive.”
Ms. Davis was admitted on Feb. 29, 2012, to SkyRidge Medical Center in Cleveland with shortness of breath and fever. She was diagnosed with pneumonia in her lungs, and she spent four weeks in the intensive care unit. Her condition deteriorating, she was put on a ventilator.
Legionnaire’s bacteria had caused the pneumonia. Not only that, but Ms. Davis had rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which bacteria attacks and breaks down muscle tissue rapidly. As a result, she could neither speak nor move. More complications hit hard, including blood poisoning, kidney failure and cardiac arrest.
On a ventilator, with a tracheostomy (an opening in the windpipe), on a feeding tube and on dialysis, Ms. Davis moved to Kindred Hospital in Chattanooga. She was in the ICU for five weeks until moving to Standifer Place Health Care Center in Chattanooga.
At Standifer Place, Ms. Davis started breathing on her own and speaking again. Therapists began working with her on regaining some of her former strength.
On July 11, Ms. Davis was able to have her trach removed. However, she was battling several infections, which caused confusion, memory loss and vivid dreams.
“She was not herself,” said Laura Hudson, one of her daughters. “It was really hard to watch.”
With the trach gone, Ms. Davis was able to move closer to her family in Cleveland. She had worked for 13 years as secretary to Forrest Preston, Life Care Centers of America’s founder and chairman, so Life Care Center of Cleveland was a natural choice.
Ms. Davis came to Life Care on Sept. 6. However, progress in her recovery was limited.
“They would test her,” said Ms. Hudson. “They would do her blood work. They would do everything we asked them to do to try to help her, but she just wasn’t getting any better.”
In late November, Ms. Davis returned to SkyRidge with dehydration, a urinary tract infection and extremely low blood pressure. This time, the treatment seemed to work.
“You could see the lights coming back on,” said Ms. Hudson. “It was like for the first time in nine months, that was Mom.”
Ms. Davis improved enough to return to Life Care.
With the other health issues resolved, she was able to focus on therapy, regaining her strength for walking and daily life skills, including the ability to swallow and eat on her own.
Becky Harris, physical therapist; Hollie Ryan, physical therapist assistant; Christina Hunt, speech therapist; and Eileen Nudd and Emily Salter, occupational therapist assistants, were among those who helped Davis regain these skills.
“To have come through all this and still have the spirit she has is amazing,” said Ms. Harris. “There was a time when every task seemed like a huge mountain, but she has come a long way.”
“They’ve just worked with me and worked with me and worked with me,” said Ms. Davis. “Everybody here has been wonderful – they’ve all been like family.”
Ms. Davis participated in many traditional therapy exercises and some special ones. Aqua therapy in the pool at Garden Plaza and using the AquaCiser underwater treadmill helped her regain range of motion and get her joints moving again – a big accomplishment after spending so much time in bed.
Participating in the Ready… Set… Go! return-to-home program, Ms. Davis relearned many of the home skills she will need when she returns to her condo. For example, therapists went with her on a real grocery shopping trip and took her out to eat. Staff also helped wean her off her pain and anxiety medications
Through it all, Ms. Davis credits God’s intervention and her support system of her three children, other family and friends, and church members with her recovery.
“I think I was on everybody’s prayer list in town,” she said.
Ms. Davis’ family, friends, associates at Life Care Center of Cleveland, and her former boss, Preston, gathered to celebrate her graduation from therapy on March 1.
Now able to care for herself with minimal assistance, Ms. Davis will continue rehabilitation on an outpatient basis three times a week. She hopes to be able to walk unassisted and get back to a normal life, eventually being able to drive again.
Life Care Center of Cleveland, at 3530 Keith St., NW, is one of 26 skilled nursing and rehab facilities in Tennessee operated or managed by Life Care Centers of America.