Pedro's Story

Pedro Sanchez smiles while in the hospital gym.

Pedro Sanchez, a 55-year-old former Marine and longtime hotel chef, had already endured eight years of treatment for leukemia. Following a resurgence of the illness, Pedro underwent chemotherapy that led to a two-day coma due to his weakened state. Following the coma, he remained in the acute care hospital for a month and a half before stabilizing and transferring to Dignity Rehabilitation Hospital to continue his recovery. When he arrived, Pedro was dependent on assistance for even the simplest tasks. He was unable to walk, stand or get out of bed on his own. His upper body strength was also compromised due to swelling in his arms, hindering his mobility.

Pedro’s care team assessed him upon admission and developed a tailored care plan that incorporated his goal of getting back on his feet and moving independently so he could return home to his family. He received excellent medical and nursing care which included managing his diet and fluids, monitoring his electrolytes and regulating his blood pressure. This care improved his kidney function to the point that he no longer needed dialysis treatments. Pedro’s physical therapists also got to work. They helped him build strength and standing balance using the barihab mat, which supports and helps safely position a patient for therapy; the parallel bars, which provide support while a patient practices walking; and, his favorite, the exercise bike, which helped him build leg strength and endurance through pedaling. He also had the opportunity to utilize the exoskeleton, a leading-edge wearable robotic suit. The suit provides support allowing Pedro to stand and walk in a balanced fashion and with the correct gait. Aided by his team, Pedro was able to walk in guided therapy sessions using an appropriate gait programmed into the exoskeleton. Bolstered by his team and the treatment sessions, Pedro slowly progressed. He moved from needing two people to help get him out of bed to using a slide board to get from his bed to the walker and walking 120 feet. He was on the way to regaining his independence.

In conjunction with physical therapy, occupational therapy worked to increase Pedro’s independence with daily living activities such as showering and eating by showing him adaptations such as a shower chair and special utensils that are easier to grasp and maneuver. They also taught him massage techniques to help him reduce the swelling in his arms. As therapy progressed and the swelling in his arms decreased, Pedro was able to eat and brush his teeth independently, as well as get dressed with less assistance each day. Pedro’s wife, Alma, mother and brothers were by his side throughout his rehabilitation providing crucial support and encouragement. They also participated in family training to learn how to safely assist him to and from his chair, bathroom and car.

After nearly a month of rehabilitation, Pedro was successfully walking with a walker, able to independently perform most of his self-care tasks and ready to return home to his family. Pedro’s determination, coupled with the skilled guidance of his therapy team, allowed him to regain his independence, putting him on the road to his ultimate goal— returning to his work as a chef. He plans to continue pursuing that goal with the help of outpatient therapy and the ongoing support of his family. Pedro had a few parting words for others in a similar situation to his, “Keep working and don’t give up.”

Reflecting on his experience, Pedro expressed his gratitude, “The staff was really nice, they took good care of me.” As he embarks on the next phase of his journey, Pedro will continue outpatient therapy, empowered by his success at Dignity Rehabilitation Hospital.