Michael's Story

Michael standing and smiling wearing green scrubs

Michael Fontenet, 55, is married with three children and has worked as a police officer in Franklin, LA for over 10 years. In his leisure time, he enjoys reading, walking and going to the gym. He previously tested positive for COVID-19, but his cough and shortness of breath did not resolve and kept getting worse. A self-described “workaholic,” Michael ignored his long-haul COVID-19 symptoms, which eventually landed him in the ER with pulmonary-renal syndrome. Michael stayed at Ochsner Main Campus for nearly a month before being admitted to Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital to continue his recovery.

Sedated for a majority of his stay in acute care, Michael couldn’t initially walk or stand independently because his legs were too weak. He was able to stand and walk approximately 40 feet with a rolling walker with minimal assistance. Weakness in his left leg would often result in it giving way during activities. Michael’s physical therapy team worked on therapeutic exercises such as squats, marches, side stepping and toe taps onto a step to improve his leg strength and endurance. Throughout his stay, the intensive therapy schedule enabled Michael to increase his standing tolerance. Additionally, his physical therapy team used the SCIFIT, a bike that incorporates the movement of arms and legs, to improve cardiovascular endurance.

Michael initially required assistance to sit up at the edge of the bed and to bathe and dress. He had very little endurance and could only sit up for two minutes or stand for 30 seconds before fatiguing. The occupational therapy team deployed techniques using adaptive equipment for Michael’s activities of daily living so that he could conserve energy. Most sessions focused on improving Michael’s arm strength and overall endurance while standing and performing various activities at a table.

By discharge, Michael was able to walk independently over 400 feet with a rolling walker, go up and down stairs with supervision and stand and transfer independently. He was also completely independent with all bathing, dressing, feeding and mobility tasks. Michael’s progress allowed him to discharge safely home and continue his progress with outpatient therapy.

Support from his family and therapy team was an important contributing factor to Michael’s motivation and recovery. His wife visited him every day during his stay, and he also received visits from his sister and children, who live out of state. Michael’s desire to see his 8-year-old granddaughter at discharge also helped fuel his drive to succeed. Michael’s therapy team motivated him by providing constant, positive encouragement.

During his time at Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital, Michael gained life-changing insight regarding his health. Before he got sick, Michael was known as a workaholic who rarely accepted help from others. He shared that his recovery experience taught him that he can’t do everything on his own. His advice to other patients on health journeys: “Take it one day at a time, listen to the therapists and don’t try to do too much too soon. It's a marathon, not a sprint."