Karen Smith - Tawas, MI
"They encouraged me, challenged me and kept me moving forward. I just cannot say enough about how wonderful they are."
She's Walking Again, Thanks to Therapists at the RehabCentre
Last June, 68-year-old Karen Smith of Tawas casually noticed one day that her gait was slightly off. "I couldn't figure out why I was walking funny," she said. Gradually but steadily, walking became more difficult. Within three months, she lost the ability to walk or even stand.
Smith found herself confined to a wheelchair. "I couldn’t go anywhere, or do anything alone," she said. "It was taking over everything. I wasn't far from having to go into a nursing home. We would not have gotten through this without our faith. We prayed for strength for each day as it came."
For months, Smith pursued treatment, but the cause of her condition was elusive. In September, a new family doctor ordered new, more complete imaging of her spine. The new images showed that a small, benign tumor was growing between the T1 and T2 vertebras and pressing on Smith's spinal cord. "They think it had been growing for about six months," she said. "They don't know what caused it, and there was no pain, but the more it pressed on the spinal cord, the less I could do."
On October 22, 2015, Neurosurgeon Mark Adams, M.D., who specializes in complex and reconstructive spine surgery, completely removed the tumor from Smith's spine. "I knew something good had happened because right after surgery, I could move my right ankle," she said.
While the results were almost immediate, months of confinement and inability to move muscles left her weak and still unable to walk. After three days of recuperation from the surgery, Smith was admitted to the RehabCentre at MidMichigan Medical Center - Gratiot.
"I'd never heard of the RehabCentre," Smith said. "However, once I discovered how wonderful it was, I was glad to be there."
Smith's goal in therapy was to regain her independence. "They got me functioning fast," she said. "I had physical therapy twice a day and occupational therapy once a day."
Occupational therapy was her first session each day. Therapists came to her room in the morning and helped Smith regain the ability to attend to personal care – showering, drying off, using the bathroom, etc.
During other occupational sessions, therapists helped Smith build upper body strength and regain coordination and fine motor skills. Before it was removed, the tumor had begun to take a toll on her upper body as well. "Before the surgery, my hand would go numb, especially at night, and I had an odd sensation around my midsection," she said. "I've regained the ability to write although my penmanship is not where I want it to be."
After breakfast, Smith had her first physical therapy session of the day; after lunch, she had a second session. "They worked on strengthening my legs and helping me walk," she said. "They started me out on the parallel bars, walking while holding onto the bars, and then I graduated to walking short distances in the hall. As my legs got better, distances got longer, and I just kept improving."
Smith praised the staff at the RehabCentre for their patience and kindness. "They treated me so well," she said. "I feel like they really cared about me. They encouraged me, challenged me and kept me moving forward. I just cannot say enough about how wonderful they are."
Floyd, Smith's husband of almost 50 years, helped with her rehab and played a pivotal role in her success. "He's a gem," she said. "I can't praise him enough. He is very loving, very supportive and never let me feel like less of a person." The staff welcomed Floyd. "They put a cot in my room so he could stay with me and eat meals with me," Smith said. "They were respectful and did their best to make him comfortable. He was with me day and night during my stay."
Months after surgery and therapy, Smith is doing very well. The damaged nerves are regenerating and she continues to build her strength. "I feel good," she said. "I'm still tired and have a bit of shoulder pain from the surgery, but otherwise, I'm doing well. I can walk, grocery shop and care for myself."
Above all, Smith said she is very grateful; grateful for answered prayer, a loving husband, the skilled surgeon and the team at the RehabCentre who helped her regain her mobility and independence. "I want people to know how much I appreciate the people at MidMichigan Medical Center - Gratiot and the treatment I received," she said. "I would highly recommend them to anyone. When you lose your ability to walk, it really limits your life. They helped me get my life back."
The RehabCentre at MidMichigan Medical Center Gratiot is a hospital-based unit specializing in intensive physical, occupational, recreational and speech therapy. Patients receive a minimum of three hours of therapy each day, along with 24-hour nursing and physician care. Those who would like more information on the RehabCentre may visit www.midmichigan.org/rehabcentre.