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Our Patients

    • Angela Cole

      Angela Cole


      Angela Cole cheered wildly along with thousands of other fans in the stadium as her beloved St. Louis Cardinals swept their rivals, the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sept. 10, 2017.

      She noticed her hands and feet tingling, but the 35-year-old chalked it up to walking around a huge stadium. The next morning, however, she could barely get out of bed. With her husband already gone to work, she called her sister, who raced her to the emergency room. There, doctors diagnosed Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack the nerves.

      She spent three weeks in the intensive care unit, paralyzed and on a feeding tube. Slowly, the disease loosened its grip, but she was weak, unable to walk, eat or move independently. Physical and occupational therapy are critical to regaining function after Guillain-Barré, so Angela’s family transferred her to SSM Rehabilitation Hospital – Bridgeton for seven weeks of medical care and rehabilitation.

      A speech-language pathologist (SLP), Angela said she knew she was in the right place. The SLPs, physical and occupational therapists “talked to me like a human being, like a colleague.”

      “I told them about my goals, which were eating real food again and getting back to my kids,” Angela said. “They got to know me. At night, my husband had to be home giving baths and getting everyone to bed, so having that interaction during the day was so important.”

      Angela worked with her rehabilitation team three hours a day, five days a week. The physical therapists guided her through weight-bearing and resistance exercises to build strength. The SLPs used mouth and throat exercises to boost her swallowing and chewing capabilities. Occupational therapists helped her re-learn how to brush her hair and button her shirt.

      By Thanksgiving, she was ready to go home. She was walking with a walker, sitting and balancing well enough to join her family at the table for an incredible turkey dinner.

      She still needed to build strength and enrolled in the SSM Health Day Institute, which allowed her to continue physical and occupational therapy as an outpatient. After graduating from the Day Institute two and a half months later, her physical therapist continued working with Angela as she rebuilt her stamina.

      Today, she’s walking with no support, able to take her children to the zoo and science center and is preparing to return to work as a school speech language pathologist in the fall. She’s working to resolve some lingering weakness in her right hand, and hopes to re-start occupational therapy soon.

      “It was so good to have that dedicated time all in one place,” she said. “I wouldn’t have made the progress I did without it.”