Susan's Story

Susan Johnson smiles in the therapy gym.

Susan Johnson, a 65-year-old wife and mother of three, was enjoying an ordinary day when she suddenly felt a sharp pain in her back while lifting a box. Initially, she attempted self-treatment with over-the-counter medication, but as the pain began to affect her legs, she knew it was time to seek professional help.

She went to the emergency room, where she received steroids and pain relief medication before being sent home. However, the following day brought even more alarming symptoms. Susan experienced worsening numbness and tingling in her legs, leading to a dangerous fall at her home. Rushed to Ochsner Kenner, Susan’s condition revealed a challenging medical puzzle. Scans indicated left-sided pneumonia, severe spinal cord narrowing, high blood pressure, an abnormal heart rhythm and an infection between her vertebral discs. Doctors moved quickly to perform two essential spinal surgeries that resulted in limited mobility for Susan, especially in her lower body.

Once she stabilized at Ochsner Kenner, Susan was determined to get back to her family, and she transferred to Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital to begin her rehabilitation. At Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital, Susan’s therapy team worked with her to create a custom plan for her recovery. Indeed, Susan’s legs were so weak that she required the assistance of two individuals just to move her in and out of bed or a wheelchair. Walking was out of the question, and even propelling her wheelchair necessitated aid.

Her therapists focused treatment on rebuilding strength, restoring mobility, relieving pain and regaining the skills she needed to get back to life. Through a comprehensive regimen of strengthening exercises, training and educational support, Susan achieved a remarkable turnaround. She not only learned to walk using a rolling walker but also became independent with wheelchair use and required only supervision for transfers.

In the early stages of her rehabilitation journey, Susan relied heavily on assistance with basic activities such as bathing, dressing and toileting. Under the guidance of her occupational therapy team, Susan dedicated herself to enhancing her self-care abilities. Her occupational therapists introduced her to valuable compensation techniques, such as using a reacher and sock aid, to perform everyday tasks. Susan embraced therapeutic activities, including standing and engaging in kitchen tasks, which helped improve her standing balance and strength.

Family training in occupational therapy provided Susan with the essential home safety and fall prevention skills she needed for the transition. When Susan completed her rehabilitation journey, she could manage her self-care and mobility with minimal to no assistance. After 40 days of therapy at Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital, Susan was ready to return home with her family. She had made tremendous progress, achieving her goal of walking once more.

Susan remains committed to her recovery, and she planned to continue with home health therapy to improve her self-care abilities and walking skills. Reflecting on her time in rehabilitation, Susan emphasized the invaluable support and encouragement she received from her therapists, which helped her regain confidence in taking care of herself. Susan offers this encouragement to others facing similar challenges: “Just be patient. It will come with time and therapy. It will get better.”