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Our Patients

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      Tracy Robinson


      Tracy Robinson, a 58-year-old wife, mother and grandmother, was working full-time as a 4th grade teacher when suddenly her whole world changed.

      In November, Tracy started experiencing a headache, left-sided weakness and difficulty walking. Her family took her to SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. She was discharged on Nov. 29 and returned on Nov. 30 with continued symptoms. There, doctors found a mass in the right side of her brain. She was started on IV antibiotics and transferred to St. Louis University Hospital, where she had a CT scan, MRI, needle aspiration of the brain mass and a drain was placed. Unfortunately, the mass — an abscess — ruptured leaking fluid into the cavities of her brain. Her health continued to decline and she needed to have a breathing tube inserted and was placed in the ICU. A staph infection further complicated her condition. However, over the next few weeks, she underwent extensive treatments and slowly her condition began to improve.

      On December 30, Tracy was transferred to SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital — Richmond Heights. An unexpected health issue sent her back to University Hospital, but she returned to SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital on January 6 ready to take the next step in her recovery.

      Upon arrival, Tracy was pleasant and alert, but in pain and unable to walk or do anything that involved her left arm or leg. Her speech, thought processes and memory were impaired. She had difficulty finding words, was unable to follow more than one-step directions and struggled with self-control. She also had significant left sided neglect, creating a lack of awareness on that side of her body. But she had a goal — to walk and regain her independence.

      Tracy required the use of a sling lift to be moved safely from bed to a chair and the assistance of two people just to roll over in bed. She wanted to work hard, to do it herself, but her body wouldn’t cooperate. Tracy was tearful and scared.

      She struggled with using a walker. She had a lot of pain in her legs at night and attributed this to the walker. However, she continued to use it every day to help gain her mobility — with her family and care team encouraging her every step.

      To help build strength in her upper and lower body, Tracy used some of the advanced technologies available to her, including the LiteGait®, which simultaneously controls weight bearing, posture and balance to coordinate lower extremity movements. She also worked on the SCIFIT® bike, using her stronger right-side limbs to drive her weaker left-side and used an arm ergometer to build upper body strength.

      In speech therapy, Tracy utilized card games to focus on sequencing, comprehension and memory. She worked with apps on an iPad and used the the Bioness® Integrated Therapy System, an interactive touchscreen, to work on visual attention, scanning, self-correction and processing speed. She also targeted short-term recall by listening to short stories and answering comprehension questions.

      Tracy’s family provided much needed motivation and support. She said they were her biggest cheerleaders. “My daughter Jerica called me every morning to ask if I was going to have a great day,” said Tracy. “My daughter Jerica and my husband visited daily. My son Jahmouri visited and called my husband and my daughter to inquire about my health. My daughter Jerreice visited from Kansas City on the weekends.” Tracy’s husband also took time to encourage other patients, which helped bolster everyone’s spirits.

      With the support of her family, friends, Pastor Douglass Petty, members of Fresh Start Bible Church and her care team, as well as medical management for pain relief, her tolerance slowly improved. She began to make steady progress.

      Tracy’s turning point in her rehabilitation was when she was finally able to use a walker to get to the bathroom. While that may seem like a small feat, it wasn’t possible at the beginning of her journey.

      After a month of intensive rehabilitation, Tracy was discharged home with her family on January 31. She still needed some assistance when walking or doing certain self-care tasks, but was gaining independence daily. She also had progressed enough to go up/down a flight of steps, enabling her to get to her own bedroom.

      Tracy described her overall rehabilitation experience as “amazing, hard, touching.” Her advice to others in the same situation is to have faith and lean on a support system for encouragement.

      Tracy is now happy to be home with her family and plans to continue her therapy at SSM Health’s Kirkwood Day Institute.