For most patients living with severe back conditions, a scheduled corrective surgery would be a welcome event. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Kristina Grace.
Following a three-part surgical procedure for direct interbody lateral fusions between L2-L3 and L3-L4, Kristina was left without feeling or function in her lower extremities. Lying in her Nashville hospital bed she recalled not feeling anything but thought maybe if she just sat up on the side of the bed it would be fine. She mentally told her legs to move but nothing happened. Her surgeon explained that there was significant swelling and the nerves were aggravated but given time to heal her functioning should return.
After some time, Kristina transferred to SKY Rehab to begin her recovery. “I was told when I admitted that my ten-year-old son wouldn’t be able to visit because of COVID, so for the first initial two-to-three weeks I just cried,” Kristina recalled. “If I couldn’t slide on the sliding board correctly I would just cry and my therapists were just so compassionate and understanding!”
“And really, at SKY is where I learned more about why I didn’t have feeling in my legs. The staff took the time to explain it to me so I could understand.” This education helped Kristina to understand how her therapies were going to help her regain her independence.
Just as Kristina had started to make improvements and was able to stand in the parallel bars she tested positive for COVID-19. She was subsequently transferred to Greenview Hospital where she remained for a week. When she was ready to discharge it was suggested that she go to a skilled nursing facility since the COVID Recovery Unit had not yet been opened at SKY. Kristina chose instead to discharge home for a week before being re-admitted to SKY to continue her recovery journey.
Having been at home with her son for a week, she came to the realization that she did not want to be wheelchair-bound. This provided Kristina with fresh determination to do whatever was needed to regain her prior level of function. Once it opened, Kristina was admitted to the COVID Recovery Unit at SKY.
On her first day back, Kristina’s therapist came in and confidently told her that they were going to walk that day. He preceded to help her take five steps–the farthest she had walked in nearly two months. For the next four weeks, Kristina committed her heart and mind to doing all that was asked of her. Step-by-step she was progressing towards her independence.
“It’s an amazing place! I would never be where I am right now,” Kristina said of SKY. “I mean I am up walking with a walker, I go to outpatient therapy here where I live three times a week, and I just improve every day! Had it not been for the wonderful staff I don’t think I would have stayed. I probably would have given in to my situation and gone home.”
For fear of not meeting a goal due to having no control over when her nerves will fully recover, Kristina hasn’t set any long-term rehab goals. However, she recognizes and celebrates each new task or function she regains.
For the staff at SKY, seeing a patient have their “a-ha” moment and commit themselves to the recovery process is so rewarding. Our thanks go out to Kristina for allowing us to be a part of her journey.