Patient Success Stories
Cornerstone Healthcare Hospitals treat more than 500 patients a day and several thousand a year. Meet some of our patients and read about their life-changing experiences. These are the sort of success stories that Cornerstone Healthcare physicians and staff make possible every day.
The Long Road to Home
Tom is an 87 year old man admitted to one of our four Cornerstone Hospitals in South Texas. He was referred to us from a local medical center with an infection, pneumonia and irritated gallbladder that would eventually need surgical intervention. He was physically deconditioned; needed breathing support from a bi-pap machine; had issues with swallowing; and was receiving numerous antibiotics. Tom and his family yearned to go home to Kansas City, so there was considerable motivation for timely and permanent restoration.
Because Tom was in need of assistance to return to his previous active life, his family requested aggressive therapy. The case management team’s primary goal was to insure Tom could go to Kansas City in his own car and in stable condition. The rehabilitation services team in concert with Tom’s family worked hard to achieve Tom’s goal of stability and strength. The nursing and respiratory teams worked closely with Tom’s physicians to resolve his infections and reduce his oxygen needs. Prior to leaving Cornerstone, Tom was able to assist with transfers and could move from sitting to standing positions.
The Cornerstone clinical team invested much time in collaboration and communication with Tom’s family and other healthcare providers who would continue Tom’s therapy after discharge from Cornerstone. The case management team communicated daily with Tom’s spouse and sons regarding daily progress and the importance of having Tom ready to leave according to his targeted discharge date. The Cornerstone team worked closely with out of state family members on travel arrangements for the long trip home. Finally, the Cornerstone case managers made arrangements with a skilled nursing facility to ensure there were no interruptions in his therapy and nursing care routines and to prepare him for surgery after he arrived in Kansas City. We are proud to report that Tom safely returned to his family in Kansas City and is doing well after his surgery.
A Journey to Walk Again: Early Mobilization of the Intensive Care Patient
Phyllis is a 73 year old previously physically active female who underwent a routine cardioversion for atrial fibrillation at a local hospital. She subsequently developed complicating pneumonia, sepsis and respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation. She was not out of bed or moving in the intensive care unit of the community hospital for three weeks prior to transfer to Cornerstone for intravenous antibiotics, ventilator weaning, wound care and physical rehabilitation. Phyllis arrived on a ventilator with severe muscle weakness and was fully dependent for all movement. She was alert and communicated to the staff by nodding her head and mouthing words. Phyllis’ goal was “to walk again.”
Phyllis was started on Cornerstone’s aggressive ventilator weaning protocol along with a four phase mobility program. We gave her a speaking valve while she was on the ventilator so she could better communicate with the staff.
Phyllis’ plan of care was tightly coordinated between the pulmonology and physical medicine staff. The entire interdisciplinary team coordinated efforts to provide Phyllis with adequate rest time to enhance her productive therapy time. Nursing worked in tandem with respiratory and rehabilitation therapy to coordinate activities of daily living and routine nursing care with her therapy times to keep her on track to reaching her daily and weekly goals.
Her rehabilitation program included the use of several state-of-the-art rehab technologies to include a mobile leg press machine and a hydraulic-assist platform walker. After six weeks, Phyllis was off the ventilator with no tubes attached to her body, breathing room air and walking 150 feet using a rolling walker with supervision. Phyllis was subsequently discharged to an acute rehabilitation hospital.
After two weeks of rehabilitation and one week at home, we were delighted when Phyllis came back to Cornerstone to visit as she had promised. “I told you” she exclaimed proudly, “I would be back walking again.”
A Second Chance
Prior to surgery, Sandra was an active wife and mother. Sandra came to Cornerstone in comatose state following neurosurgery where shortly after her procedure, she developed swelling in the oral pharynx and the team had difficulty with her intubation. The physician felt she had a lack of oxygen to her brain causing additional challenges for her full recovery. Her tongue was very swollen and protruded out her mouth requiring the use of a bite block. To prevent complications or injury, the physician suggested pulling all her teeth, but her husband refused. She also suffered with congestive heart failure, sinusitis, atrial fibrillation, anemia, hypertension and respiratory failure, making her ability to heal and be removed from the ventilator more of a challenge for the care team. Upon arrival Sandra was on full ventilator support and her family was unsure if she was even aware of her surroundings. Her family was not sure if continuing aggressive treatment was the right option, but after family discussions with her care team, everyone agreed to allow her a second chance at Cornerstone.
With the use of a soft teeth guard, and diligent clinical care, her tongue eventually returned to normal state. After a few weeks of aggressive care, Sandra’s level of alertness gradually increased. Due in part to rigorous physical and respiratory therapy regimens, Sandra was eventually weaned from the ventilator. Her tracheostomy tube was downsized and capped to allow use of her natural upper airway.
Sandra’s tracheostomy tube was soon removed and she was discharged to her home where she is again enjoying the sandy beaches of Florida. She and her husband are looking forward to attending their daughter’s wedding in the fall.
A Determined Recovery from Surgical Complications
Leah Williams was admitted to Cornerstone Hospital Conroe from a local acute care hospital following a major surgical procedure. Mrs. Williams had an extensive medical history which included atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and prior open heart surgery. These conditions likely explained in large part her difficult recovery from her surgical procedure and placement on a ventilator. Her resistance to the local hospital’s best efforts to wean her on the ventilator led to the placement of a tracheostomy tube (an artificial windpipe) to help her breathe. Upon her arrival to Cornerstone Hospital Conroe she was non-alert, restless, confused and only occasionally able to follow simple commands. Leah required maximum assistance with all of her activities of daily living and was unable to walk. She was a very debilitated patient.
With the encouragement of a very supportive husband, we immediately placed Mrs. Williams on our aggressive ventilator weaning program under the guidance of our highly specialized medical staff. Cornerstone’s dedicated team of physical, occupational, speech and respiratory therapies, nursing, pharmacy and nutritional staff collaborated with Leah to develop an individualized treatment plan to uniquely address her expressed goals. This interdisciplinary team communicated daily to assure she was progressing as safely and timely as medically possible. Within several weeks, Leah was fully weaned to a tracheostomy collar. Shortly thereafter the ventilator was removed altogether.
The tracheostomy tube was subsequently removed and her rehabilitation course rapidly accelerated! Her husband was so encouraged to see Leah walking up and down the hall and regaining her ability to swallow and speak. She was now walking 200 feet with a rolling walker and enjoying a regular diet. And finally we were so proud to watch as Leah was wheeled out our hospital doors on her way home – all less than a month after she was admitted! Before going home and during one of her many therapy sessions, her therapy team was thrilled to hear Mrs. Williams exclaim: “I’ve impressed myself!”
Our Case Management team forwarded information regarding her treatment course along to her primary care physician and arranged a follow-up appointment to assure her progress would be sustained while at home. We all truly hopes she comes back to see us as a visitor!
Dalis, A Long Road Home
Dalis was admitted to the short term acute care hospital complaining of abdominal pain for two days. Upon examination by his physician, he was found to have an acute abdomen and was taken for exploratory surgery, where he was found to have extensive abdominal issues requiring surgical intervention and repair. Due to his complicated medical history, he was not able to be extubated after surgery and developed Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) while in the ICU. He also developed Acute Renal Failure (ARF) that required hemodialysis three times a week. Once stable, Dalis was transferred to Cornerstone Hospital of Huntington to begin the weaning process.
Slowly the respiratory staff was able to begin the ventilator weaning process. Within nine days of arriving at Cornerstone Hospital of Huntington, Dalis was weaned from the ventilator. On day fifteen of his stay, his tracheostomy tube was removed, and it was determined he able to swallow a regular diet. Physical and Occupational Therapists saw Dalis daily and were able assist him in progressing from being bed bound to being able to walk in the hall.
At the time of discharge his only need was to continue the hemodialysis on an outpatient basis. He was able to return to living with his sister and he was looking forward to going fishing with his brother. His sister was extremely grateful for this outcome. During his illness she was fearful Dalis would not be able to wean from the ventilator and have to be sent to a long term care facility far from home. She stated that not only did she feel we had helped save Dalis’ life but we had also given her life back, as she too was going home after 60 days of being at her brother’s side.
A Return to a Quality of Life No One Thought Was Possible.
Dave’s hospital journey began December when his physician ordered a forty day course of treatment for osteomyelitis in the outpatient wound care setting as Dave fractured a toe on his right foot that eventually required hyperbaric oxygenation (HBO) therapy and intravenous antibiotics. At the end of January, Dave was on his last day of treatment at the wound clinic, and was having his routine vital signs and blood sugar checked. The treatment was about to begin when Dave had a seizure and went into cardiac arrest that required the wound care staff to begin cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Dave was then transported to the intensive care unit at the short term acute care hospital and resuscitation efforts continued. During the next couple of days multiple exams and procedures were performed and Dave eventually required a tracheostomy to assist his breathing and feeding tube to provide his nutrition. Dave’s wife was asked to start looking at several nursing homes since more than likely that would be his final destination. Solara Hospital at Brownsville was recommended prior to the nursing home placement for additional attempts at weaning from the ventilator and possibly removal of the tracheostomy and feeding tube.
Dave was transferred to Solara Brownsville in February and was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Dave arrived with two sedation medications to keep him comfortable, but unable to participate in his care. During the next couple of weeks the staff worked primarily on keeping Dave off the sedation medication in order to reorient him to surroundings and to work on removing him from the ventilator. Once off sedation Physical Therapy worked on getting Dave out of bed to a chair, sitting at the edge of the bed and eventually even standing while holding on to a walker. By the end of February, Dave was awake and asking questions regarding the events leading to his admission to Solara Brownsville. Dave’s progress was incredible and prior to discharge his tracheostomy and feeding tube were both removed.
Dave’s wife stated that “she felt at home” and was comfortable knowing that her husband was being properly cared for. Dave was very grateful with all of the Solara Brownsville staff. Dave was discharged in March happy to have a second chance at life.
Battling Multiple Comorbidities with Success
After multiple admissions to a local hospitals and skilled nursing facilities over the course of three months, Mr. Woodell was admitted to Cornerstone Hospital-Bossier City for severe and persistent wounds to both of his lower legs. He was also beset with pneumonia, severe congestive heart failure, and uncontrolled diabetes. His recovery was complicated by a history of peripheral vascular disease, and hypertension. What made Mr. Woodell extra special is that he was the father of Connie Combs, one of our very knowledgeable lead case managers. The admitting physician, with much assistance from our interdisciplinary treatment team, orchestrated the care of Mr. Woodell- adjusting his medications that over time improved his heart and lung function while increasing his independence and mobility.
The dietitian provided a special nourishing diet being careful to coordinate his nutritional intake with his medication regimen. Failure to continually fine-tune the array and dosage of medication and diet could easily send him into a diabetic crisis. Fortunately the Cornerstone team maintained the appropriate balances such that he gained control over his diabetes. His confidence rose, his blood glucose levels were continually normal, he responded well to physical therapy and as a result, his wounds healed rapidly.
The wound care nurse and nursing staff continually assessed and managed Mr. Woodell’s wounds. They kept the wounds clean, applied medicated treatments and made dressing changes daily. His cardiac system was managed by a cardiologist via drugs that reversed the fluids that had collected around his lungs. These drugs, in concert with ongoing physical therapy also contributed to a slow steady decrease in weight and reduction in lower leg swelling. This also relieved Mr. Woodell of a persistent shortness of breath that was further impairing his heart and his risk for continued pneumonia.
During his course of care, Mr. Woodell also received daily respiratory treatments as well as education/re-education on breathing techniques that would increase his oxygen intake and allow him to better combat his congestive heart failure. Physical and occupational therapy worked with him daily allowing him to regain confidence and independence with mobility. We needed him to learn adaptive techniques with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and feeding. He also received education on his independent self-care management pending his soon discharge to home. Case management coordinated all aspects of care to include a definitive discharge plan to include medical equipment and home health services.
Perhaps the nicest gift was the gift of a re-conditioned father to Connie. “My father was able to return home and resume his activities of daily living and return to worship at his local church. His heart failure has been kept under control thanks to the education he received both while hospitalized and at his home. “
When No One Else Gave Us Hope
Maria, a 35-year-old mother of two, was admitted to Solara Hospital Shawnee in late November after a cardiopulmonary arrest. As a result, she suffered from anoxic encephalopathy, or a form of brain damage, due to the lack of oxygen to her brain. There were other organs and body systems impacted due to the arrest, resulting in her need for treatment of pancreatitis and ventilator management.
Despite their efforts, the community hospital had been unsuccessful in weaning Maria from the ventilator. Maria was eventually transferred to Solara Hospital Shawnee for more Physical and Occupational Therapy and ventilator weaning. Upon her arrival to Solara Hospital of Shawnee, Maria was responsive only to deep pain and was completely dependent on the ventilator. Nonetheless, the clinical team at Shawnee was determined to do everything they could to help Maria progress to her maximum capabilities.
After five weeks of treatment, Maria’s pneumonia persisted, she had episodes of sepsis, there was little neurological improvement, and the surgeon had inserted a feeding tube, but the clinical team and her family pressed on hoping for a positive outcome for Maria.
With the New Year, there was new hope. The antibiotic therapy resolved the sepsis and pneumonia. Maria’s mom reported that Maria squeezed her hand, it was apparent Maria knew her family was there. As Maria grew stronger, Respiratory Therapy carefully began weaning the ventilator. By January, Maria was off of the ventilator and placed on a tracheostomy collar, and then the tube was removed altogether. Her mental status improved as she grew stronger. A week later, Maria was sitting in recliner, eating a regular diet, and walking over twenty feet with minimal assistance. She was transferred to an acute rehabilitation facility within a week of all those positive findings.
Maria tells us she thinks the staff at Solara Hospital of Shawnee saved her life. Her mom says she is sure of it.
When No One Else Gave Us Hope
Mrs. B. was admitted to the short term acute care hospital for complaints of abdominal issues for more than a month. Upon assessment, she was found to have a large mass that required surgery, and she subsequently developed pneumonia. Due to difficulty breathing on her own after surgery, Mrs. B. was intubated and extubated several times and failed several ventilator weaning trials prior to receiving a tracheostomy to help her breathe more comfortably on the ventilator. Her clinical team at the hospital recommended she be transferred to Cornerstone Hospital of Huntington for ventilator weaning and continued post-surgical wound care.
She arrived to our hospital on complete ventilator support, unable to breathe on her own, and she needed continued treatment of intravenous antibiotics for wound care. Within fifteen days of her admission, she was able to breathe on her own and was weaned from the ventilator. She was then seen by Speech Therapy and after some therapy; they subsequently advanced her to a regular diet. Her respiratory status continued to improve to the point she was able to have the tracheostomy tube removed and she was able to use oxygen to give her additional breathing support. She also was able to progress with Physical Therapy from in bed activities to standing with assistance at the bedside. Mrs. B’s ultimate goal was to return home but the interdisciplinary team and physicians’ recommendation was that she first receives more extensive Physical Therapy in another setting before returning home.
The staff had become very attached to Mrs. B.; they all enjoyed her quick wit and humor. While the staff filed into her room to celebrate her progress and pose for a group photo, Mrs. B. looked at them all and said, “I truly am your success story, thank you!”
I Never Thought I’d Be Active Again
Mr. H. is a 61-year old male who had been in the local hospital for three weeks after extensive abdominal surgery. During his hospital stay, he developed an infection and had to be placed on a ventilator to assist his breathing on two different occasions. After he was weaned from the ventilator the second time, he was sent to Solara Hospital Muskogee for wound care from his abdominal surgery, administration of four intravenous antibiotics, and Physical and Occupational Therapy.
Mr. H. had two significant surgical wounds on his abdomen when he arrived at Muskogee. With the use of a negative pressure wound therapy device, the Wound Care Team was able to drastically decrease the size of both wounds and stimulate new tissue growth. The wounds have improved to the point that the patient will not need the negative pressure wound therapy device much longer.
When the patient arrived at Solara Hospital Muskogee, he was unable to get out of bed without assistance. He received Physical and Occupational Therapy four times a week. He is now walking 820 feet three times a day with no assistive devices and will be going home, as further Physical and Occupational Therapy will not be needed after his care team evaluated all the progress he has made.
Mr. H. stated, “I have received the best care here and the staff is amazing. I can walk up the stairs thanks to the rehab therapy staff.”
Going Above and Beyond
Mr. C was referred to Cornerstone Hospital Sulphur with multiple medical problems after surgery, including, respiratory failure, low hemoglobin due to bleeding in his stomach, a wound on his lower back due to his nutritional status and his inability to be mobile, and a large surgical incision on his abdomen. As a result, he was left unable to eat by mouth and was receiving his nutrition through a tube feeding. Upon admission, he was agitated and tying to remove his tubes and get out of bed.
The wound care team, including the physician, dietitian, therapy team, and wound care nurse, began an aggressive treatment plan to heal his wounds. After testing his swallowing, his diet improved and he was able to eat without the need for the feeding tube. Mr. C was given blood and his medications were adjusted to decrease his agitation. As his confusion slowly began to decrease, he was able to spend time in the rehabilitation department as the therapists were hopeful he would be able to regain his strength.
As Mr. C became more comfortable with the staff and the daily care routine, his comical personality resurfaced and he became a favorite of all those with whom he came in contact. Staff soon found out he was an accomplished pianist and a full sized keyboard soon appeared in his room. He was able to play a few songs to the enjoyment of everyone around him.
After a four week stay at Cornerstone Hospital Sulphur, Mr. C was not the same patient that came through the doors. He left us with no wounds, eating, walking, and after a few weeks in a skilled nursing facility, he was able to return home and live independently. Play on Mr. C!