Rita Mora filled her days with gardening, crafting projects and five-mile walks with her husband, Josue. However, the retired 61-year-old’s active lifestyle was interrupted when she began falling and experiencing chronic back pain. After two years of declining mobility and increasing pain, she had surgery to stabilize bone fragments in her back with rods and pins. Following surgery, she choose Dignity Health Rehabilitation Hospital for her recovery, determined to put the work into getting better.
When admitted, Rita needed a wheelchair and had overall weakness, especially on her right side. She required complete assistance to walk because as her knees were constantly buckling. Given her condition, Rita struggled to care for herself due to her pain and mobility challenges. Despite that, Rita set a goal to regain her ability to walk, without pain.
Nursing coordinated with therapy to provide effective pain management before therapy sessions to maximize her comfort and range of motion. After therapy, nursing provided gel ice packs to help with any soreness. The wound nurse also monitored Rita’s surgical incisions on her lower back and with approval from the surgeon, was eventually able to remove her stiches.
As a result of her surgery, Rita followed spinal precautions and was not allowed to bend, lift or twist. Occupational therapy (OT) provided training on long-handled devices including a sponge for bathing, shoe horn for assistance in putting on her shoes and a dressing stick to help her get dressed safely. OT also conducted family training to assist Rita’s family in preparing their home for her return. They covered strategies for simple home modifications including removing area rugs, placing night lights in the hallway and bathroom and clearing pathways to reduce fall risk.
Physical therapists (PT) had Rita work with the parallel bars, helping her stand to start building her tolerance for both an upright position and taking steps. Adding to that, her PTs assisted Rita with lower extremity exercises using therapy bands while in bed or on a chair. She then moved from the bars to a front-wheeled walker, though it was challenging since her knee kept buckling. To address this, her therapists incorporated the use of an exoskeleton (exo), a wearable robotic device. The exo helps build strength, supports leg swing-through, stance and boosts endurance – all of which help patients achieve walking goals. Before using the exo, Rita could barely walk 35 feet with a walker and therapist support. After several rigorous sessions, she was walking 350 feet with minimal help and a walker. Her progress motivated Rita and built her confidence.
Josue and their family were a tremendous support to Rita during her recovery. Beyond his frequent visits, occupational therapists worked with Josue to train him for Rita’s return home – so he would be knowledgeable on how to support her. He and Rita’s team worked on transfer training, ensuring the use of safe techniques and how to correctly assist Rita with the gait belt. They also taught him how to help Rita sit for activities such as showering and dressing. Following the care partner training, Josue could confidently support Rita as she transferred in and out of bed and managed her self-care
needs with minimal assistance.
At discharge, Rita successfully met her rehabilitation goal of walking 1,000 feet with her walker. That, along with all the other work put into Rita’s recovery, helped restore the couple’s hope that Rita would return to an active lifestyle.
Asked about her experience, Rita said, “My time here was excellent. I’m so thankful for Dignity Health Rehabilitation Hospital and would recommend it to anyone."