Albert's Story

Albert Dieudonne standing during therapy.

Albert Dieudonne, age 79, was living at home and enjoying life with his wife, Denise. On an otherwise typical day, he began to experience a heartburn sensation. When the feelings continued into a second day, Denise became increasingly concerned and decided to call 911. An ambulance arrived and took Albert to University Medical Center in New Orleans. An EKG revealed Albert had a STEMI (ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction), which is the most severe type of heart attack. The cardiologist told Albert that he only had minutes to live and emergency coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) was necessary. Albert recalled, “Next thing I know they put me on a table and there was a machine above me and I was out. I woke up eight days later.”

When Albert regained consciousness post-surgery, he could not move his feet or arms. While at the acute care hospital, he participated in occupational and physical therapy and was only able to sit up in bed and stand for a short period of time. By the end of his 21-day stay, Albert felt he needed additional rehabilitation therapy to get stronger. Although his insurance denied coverage for inpatient rehabilitation, Albert and his family elected to self-pay for Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital so he could receive the recovery services they all felt he needed.

In order to protect Albert’s sternum and chest muscles after his open heart surgery, he was not allowed to push through his arms to help him stand up or use a walker. When he first got to Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital, he required supplemental oxygen through a tube under his nose, had significant swelling in both of his legs and required maximal assistance from his physical therapist to stand up. His physical therapy team worked to build the strength back in his legs and he was soon able to stand with progressively less assistance and walk with the minimal assistance of one person with a wheelchair follow for safety. 

In occupational therapy, Albert initially required significant assistance for all activities of daily living including toileting, dressing and bathing. He had great difficulty with standing up and getting on and off the toilet since he was unable to use his arms.  

His occupational therapists focused on strengthening his arms, improving endurance and utilizing adaptive equipment to help Albert gain greater independence with his activities of daily living. He worked on improving his grip strength with therapy putty and a spring resistance hand exerciser. Although these exercises seemed simple, Albert expressed that his occupational therapists helped him discover muscles he did not know he had. 

Albert’s therapist showed him how to use adaptive equipment so he could dress and bathe independently. In order to improve endurance, Albert used a therapy bike and learned energy conservation exercises and techniques. 

By discharge, Albert was able to stand and transfer to the toilet without physical assistance. He was able to dress, bathe, and get in and out of bed without assistance—and all without using his arms as well, to protect his chest muscles which were still healing from the surgery. He was also able to stand and walk over 180 feet with minimal assistance and a wheelchair follow. 
Albert shared, “My experience at Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital has been terrific. The therapists were great. Everyone actually cared. I’m really impressed by this place.” He added that his stay “was worth every penny” and that “From the way I feel today compared to when I first walked in, it has been an astronomical difference.” 

Albert said he is thankful that his therapists got him to where he needed to be and now his wife can rely on him. He calls his family “a blessing,” and stated that they are the reason he went to rehabilitation and made the progress that he did as they continuously provided their loving support and advocated for him at both hospitals. Albert’s wife and daughters were always by his side, encouraging him to work hard towards his goals. He shared that they could see the potential in him before he could even see it himself.

Albert discharged to his daughter’s home where he plans to participate in home health therapy to continue rebuilding strength with the goal of returning to his own home with Denise. In the meantime, he is going to enjoy life and being with his family.

His advice for other patients in a similar situation is this: “You have to have a sincere desire to get well. With the help of the therapists, you can.”