J. Lo's Story

Joseph Lo holding  a therapy ball.

Fifty-four-year old Joseph Lo, affectionately known as J. Lo, faced a cascade of health challenges that left him debilitated and dependent on assistance for even the most basic activities such as washing his face, combing his hair and feeding himself.

Prior to his illness, J. Lo was a dedicated ER doctor who, in addition to his work, enjoyed cooking, collecting cutlery and listening to audiobooks. However, after not feeling well for a couple days, extreme fatigue and joint pain caused his knees to buckle and he collapsed to the ground at home, initiating a journey that would test his strength and determination.

Transported to Dignity St. Rose Dominican Hospital San Martin Campus, J. Lo’s diagnosis included both congestive heart and kidney failure, COVID and infections in his blood, knees and spine. These conditions left him with extreme swelling in his hands, impaired muscle strength and severe joint pain that restricted his mobility to the point where he couldn’t even stand or walk.

After three weeks of acute care to clear the infections and stabilize his condition, J. Lo choose Dignity Health Rehabilitation Hospital for his recovery, embarking on a rigorous rehabilitation regimen that incorporated physical and occupational therapies.

With a team of dedicated therapists, J. Lo. embraced leading-edge technologies such as the Hocoma Erigo, a therapy treatment table that can be gradually inclined to take a patient from a lying to a standing position. The table is also equipped with robotics and functional electrical stimulation (FES) technology to help patients begin moving their legs again by manually moving the patient’s legs while providing electrical stimulation to the leg muscles. His therapists also used the stepper bike to help him build leg strength and endurance, and had him develop his core strength with the support of a barimat, a therapy support system specifically designed for bariatric patients that tilts and turns into a chair to safely move patients into an upright position. This allowed J. Lo to practice weight bearing and build his confidence during therapy without the fear of falling down. These robotics and advanced technologies enabled him to gradually regain strength and mobility over the course of his three month stay.

“With the help of the barihabmat, I stayed upright for more than a minute during therapy. I teared up because that was the first time I was standing upright and weight bearing in more than 13 weeks,” shared J. Lo, describing a pivotal moment in his recovery.

During his recovery, a specialized wound nurse worked diligently with J. Lo on positioning and diet education to prevent a pressure wound from getting worse and to help his skin heal. With her care and in time, his wound did heal and he didn’t develop any additional wounds.

Throughout his journey, J. Lo’s wife, daughters and friends were there to support him. His therapists also helped motivate and instilled confidence in him – they let him know he could successfully master each therapy task. “Trust your therapists,” J. Lo advised, emphasizing how their expertise and guidance were crucial to his progress. He also appreciated how the team personalized his therapy by incorporating table tennis— a favorite pastime – which helped J. Lo with balance training.

“This was a life altering experience,” said J. Lo. “I went from fears of being wheelchair or bed bound, living in a skilled nursing facility the rest of my life, to realizing that standing and walking were real possibilities. Each therapy task that I accomplished, my therapist would up the exercises to push me to be stronger and more mobile. The first time I walked more than 10 feet with a walker, I knew all the time and work from the past weeks was worth it,” J. Lo said.

After almost three months of intensive therapy, J. Lo was able to walk over 150 feet independently, was independent with all self-care activities and mobility with the assistance of adaptive equipment when needed. J. Lo was ready to return home where he looks forward to resuming his regular life, returning to work and indulging in the simple pleasures of spending time with loved ones and traveling.