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Our Patients

    • Nickie-Stringfellow-110x110.jpg

      Nickie Stringfellow

      According to 45-year old Nickie Stringfellow, she was living a peaceful life in St. Ann, Missouri. She spent her days enjoying her dog, cooking, watercolor painting and decorating her house. Nickie had faced some health challenges in the past, so she was very in-tune with her body. So when she found herself constantly drooling in June, she knew something was wrong. Nickie first called her mother, then called 911. When emergency services didn’t arrive, her mother drove her to the hospital. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of hospital beds, Nickie was sent home.

      Over the next few days, she began to suffer from seizures, so her son took her back to the hospital. Nickie had a number of tests done, including an MRI and an EEG, a test used to evaluate the electrical activity in the brain. The tests determined that Nickie was having many seizures, very close together, so she was put into an induced coma. She does not have many memories from this time in the ICU, but does recall her son telling her to grab his hand, which she did.

      Once out of the coma and stable, Nickie’s breathing tube was removed. She was having difficulty swallowing and speaking and could only remember parts of the previous week. When Nickie’s physicians recommended that she continue her recovery at an inpatient rehabilitation hospital, she chose SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital – Bridgeton, as it was close to her home and she knew that her mother would be able to visit more regularly. Nickie also appreciated the fact that SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital offers a daily devotional each morning, adding that it made her realize that she “picked the right place.”

      When Nickie arrived at SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital, she met with her care team of physical, occupational and speech therapists, as well as nurses and physicians, to set goals for her recovery. Nickie wanted to be able to do stairs, walk her dog, cook and live as independently as she had been before her hospitalization.

      In physical therapy, Nickie worked on using a wheeled walker to increase her strength and mobility. She also practiced going up and down stairs and doing exercises to improve her balance. “Nickie was a real joy to work with,” one of her physical therapists said. “She was motivated and celebrated not only her own successes, but the successes of the patients around her.”

      Nickie’s speech therapists worked with her on swallowing exercises and helped her to adapt to a new way of eating as her throat healed from being intubated. She learned to cut her food into small pieces and take small bites and sips of liquid. Nickie also worked with speech therapists on increasing the strength of her voice and overall speech, which was occasionally dysfluent.

      In occupational therapy, Nickie’s team worked to improve her endurance. She worked with a recreation therapist to do word puzzles that challenged her brain and an occupational therapist on showering independently. Knowing that Nickie loves to cook, her therapy team incorporated cooking into her therapy sessions. On her last day of occupational therapy, Nickie turned on some music, gathered all of the necessary groceries from the therapy apartment and cooked a four-course meal completely independently. 

      After 10 days at SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital, Nickie was discharged to home. She said that her therapists “have given me a lot of information,” which makes her “want to take all of the things I learned and try to get fit for my health.” During her last week at SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital, Nickie found out that she was going to become a grandmother again, which gave her extra incentive to continue working hard to have a full recovery and improve her health. Nickie left the hospital walking on her own and able to independently perform all of her activities of daily living. She plans to continue her rehabilitation journey in an outpatient setting and was excited to return home to her family and dog.

      When asked what she learned about herself during her recovery process, Nickie said she discovered that “I am a fighter, a warrior, a prayer warrior and how to be more compassionate.” She had the highest praise for her care team, stating that “they helped me accomplish the goals I had for myself and motivated me and believed in me.” Nickie also expressed gratitude for her mother, who came to visit her every day and provided her with encouragement and helped her keep the faith.