Kathie's Story

Kathie Heafner smiles after rehabilitation.

Algiers resident Kathie Heafner enjoys swimming, painting, and arts and crafts. However, she struggled for four and half years with compromised mobility due to Charcot foot, a condition causing weakness of the bones in the foot.

When she developed a stubborn wound on her left foot that defied healing, Kathie and her physician determined that a below-knee amputation was necessary. After the procedure, Kathie selected Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital for her inpatient rehabilitation.

Upon arrival at Ochsner, the interdisciplinary team worked with Kathie to put a treatment plan in place.

Her physical therapist’s focus was to improve Kathie’s safety awareness and transfer technique to prevent falls. At the start, she displayed remarkable resilience and mobility. Kathie was already capable of performing bed mobility and transfers to her wheelchair with little assistance. Additionally, she was able to walk 40 feet with a rolling walker with her dedicated therapist providing assistance for balance.

Leveraging cutting-edge technology, virtual reality mirror therapy was utilized to improve her standing balance and alleviate any phantom pain. This innovative therapy allowed her to visualize both of her feet again which helped her brain process the new and confusing sensory inputs from the nerves in the amputated leg. Her medical team also coordinated with a local prosthetist to obtain a shrinker, a sock-like compression sleeve, preparing her limb for a future prosthetic.

Kathie’s hard work and the use of the computer-generated simulation technology resulted in her achieving independent transfers and wheelchair mobility, as well as supervised walking on uneven terrain.

In occupational therapy, Kathie focused on regaining her daily living skills from a wheelchair. Her therapist tailored her treatment plan to rebuild her strength and endurance. Kathie concentrated on transitioning from bed to wheelchair and using a bedside commode. By the time of discharge, Kathie had reclaimed her independence, successfully managing all her daily living activities such as bathing, getting dressed and toileting independently.

Reflecting on her time at Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital, Kathie remarked, “It was awesome. The therapy team just kept encouraging me.”

She also expressed gratitude to her family and friends who provided support during her stay. Eager to return home and ready to take on life with a renewed energy, Kathie plans to continue building her strength through home health therapy.