Timmy's Story

Timmy Smith standing during physical therapy.

Timmy Smith, 63, loves horses and four-wheeling. He was enjoying his hobbies and life when he noticed progressive weakness in the back of his legs. His doctor suspected poor circulation. However, after intermittent pain over the next few weeks, Timmy began experiencing numbness throughout his body and admitted to Ochsner Main Campus for further testing.

A spinal tap revealed Timmy had Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). A rare disorder, GBS causes the body’s immune system to attack the nerves causing weakness and eventual paralysis. Timmy received plasma exchange therapy to remove problematic antibodies from his bloodstream. After completing this therapy, Timmy began to regain function in his arms and legs and was transferred to Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital for inpatient rehabilitative care to further improve his physical strength.

When Timmy first arrived, he required assistance from two people to maintain his balance on the edge of the bed and to get out of bed. The decreased control and coordination
of his arms and legs made movement difficult. He also had reduced sensation and a decreased awareness of his body. Typical of GBS, pain was one of Timmy’s greatest challenges. To help address this, Timmy’s physical therapist provided a form of electrical stimulation known as TENS. To improve his sitting balance and trunk control, he performed tasks while seated without back or arm support to challenge his core strength. Timmy and his physical therapy team continuously worked on transfers from the bed to a chair to improve his leg strength and increase independence.

Timmy had difficulty maintaining a standing posture due to weakness and lack of control of his legs. In physical therapy sessions, he worked on standing balance tasks such as squats and cone taps to improve his stability. Despite the pain in his legs, Timmy was progressing and began walking with a walker. By discharge, he was able to transfer with minimal assistance from one person. He was also able to walk short distances with a rolling walker for balance and stability, and strong enough to navigate a power wheelchair without assistance.

When Timmy first arrived to Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital, he had impaired coordination in both arms caused by damage to his nerves. He required maximal assistance to eat and complete assistance for toileting and dressing. His occupational therapist helped build his strength using arm weights during tasks such as feeding himself. Placing dominoes on a table one by one and pinching therapy putty helped him strengthen his grip and refine coordination.

At the time of discharge, Timmy could transfer in and out of his wheelchair with minimal assistance, and eat and put on his shirt independently.

One of Timmy’s big goals was to be able to use the bathroom independently. Before discharge, Timmy not only achieved this goal, but surpassed it because he was also able to walk to the bathroom with a walker.

Timmy credited the progress he made to God and his therapy team. Looking back on his stay, Timmy said, “My experience with Ochsner Rehabilitation Hospital was excellent. After my therapy, the pain I had for so long in my legs was greatly improved.” Back on his feet, Timmy looked forward to returning home to see his horses again.