Rita's Story

Rita Jackson smiling at home after inpatient rehabilitation.

Rita Jackson, a 66-year-old social service analyst with a passion for children and family services, had lived an active life full of concerts, festivals and travel with friends. But, on an otherwise typical day, while carrying groceries to her second floor apartment, she suffered a fall that twisted her back and led to two compound fractures.

The pain was severe, and Rita immediately visited her doctor. However, her pain persisted despite multiple treatments. Additional tests led to a surprising and lifechanging diagnosis—multiple myeloma, a cancer of the white blood cells. In this condition, the cancerous cells build up in the bone marrow, and can cause complications including infections, bone pain, osteoporosis and anemia.

Rita’s battle against multiple myeloma began with chemotherapy, both in the hospital and on an outpatient basis. Yet, Rita’s situation worsened as she developed intense leg pain, and an MRI revealed lesions on her spine. Unable to walk or perform daily tasks due to pain and weakness, Rita was determined to rebuild her strength, skills and independence. She turned to Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital for help.

Upon arrival at Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital, her multidisciplinary care team designed a plan to help Rita with her goals. At the start, Rita required supplemental oxygen and the assistance of two individuals for most tasks due to her weakness. Simple acts like getting in and out of bed or standing up necessitated significant support. She could only walk a couple of feet with a rolling walker, and her right leg would buckle each time she tried to walk. Indeed, her road to recovery seemed long and challenging.

Rita’s physical therapist created a personalized program to rebuild her strength and mobility. Through repetitive standing exercises and leg workouts, Rita gradually regained her standing endurance and balance. Showing determination and a strong work ethic, Rita dedicated herself to the therapy sessions and soon she only needed minimal assistance to stand. As her endurance improved, she was able to perform tasks without the aid of her walker, and she remarkably no longer required supplemental oxygen.

In occupational therapy, Rita tackled daily living tasks like toileting and dressing, which once required total assistance. Her therapist introduced adaptive equipment and balance exercises, empowering her to gain more independence with each passing day.

With relentless effort and the support of her “medical posse,” a group of devoted friends, Rita made tremendous strides during her three-week stay at Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital. When the time came for her discharge, she was independent in all activities of daily living.

She chose to stay with her family, who could provide assistance as needed, while continuing her recovery with home health therapy. Anticipating the restart of her chemotherapy, Rita was ready to take on the next chapter of her journey with renewed hope and resilience. Rita described her rehabilitation experience as transformative, and left grateful for the physical progress she had made and the positive support she received.