Lucy's story

Patient Lucy Hart poses with 2 of her physical therapists.

In August, Lucy Hart was on vacation in Wyoming when she was involved in a serious car accident. She was airlifted to a trauma hospital in Utah, where doctors had to insert a tube to assist her breathing and perform blood transfusions to combat shock and hypotension. Her injuries were extensive: multiple fractures, including to the bone around her right eye, vertebrae, collar bone, ribs, pelvis and right femur; fluid in her lungs; and flail chest, a life-threatening condition in which part of the rib cage breaks and becomes detached from the chest wall. She required several surgeries and a feeding tube was placed.

Once medically stable, Lucy was flown to Missouri Baptist Hospital, closer to home. She transferred on August 30 to Select Specialty Hospital – Town and Country and over the next three weeks was weaned from the ventilator, was able to eat pureed foods and began physical therapy.

On September 21, she was admitted to SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital - Richmond Heights for comprehensive rehabilitation. Lucy was unable to walk and required maximum assistance with all daily living activities, such as bathing and dressing. She couldn’t put any weight on her left arm and wore a back brace when she was out of bed to protect her spine. In addition, she had some cognitive deficits, including difficulty with memory and problem-solving.

Because of spinal precautions and limited use of her arm, Lucy worked with her occupational therapists on learning one-handed techniques and using adaptive equipment for self-care and other tasks.

Physical therapy worked on improving her mobility – transferring with a board, taking steps on parallel bars and building strength. They taught Lucy how to maneuver a wheelchair using her legs and one arm. Therapists also focused on increasing her endurance when standing.

In speech therapy, Lucy worked on improving her swallowing to safely advance her diet. They also focused on tasks for attention and organizational skills using apps on an iPad. Lucy feared getting into a car, so therapists also helped her address those concerns. Her family participated in education and training sessions to be able to safely assist her when she went home.

Her memory continued to improve and her diet was upgraded to a regular diet, with her feeding tube being removed on October 7. After three months in multiple hospitals, Lucy was able to perform daily living activities from her wheelchair, transfer from one surface to another with the help of a sliding board and walk short distances with a walker.

On October 10, she transitioned to SSM Health Day Institute, a specialized outpatient rehabilitation program, and participated in an additional five months of therapy, which, like the critical illness recovery and inpatient rehabilitation hospital, is part of the Select Medical continuum of care.

During her time there, her cognitive and language skills improved with the help of speech therapy. Continued physical therapy helped her progress from using the wheelchair to walking with a quad cane and starting to walk independently through physical therapy. In occupational therapy, she was able to double the strength of her left hand and increase her range of motion to the point where she could touch her face and use her hand for other aspects of self-care.

Lucy’s rehabilitation journey is a great testament to the benefits of a strong continuum of care. Thanks to all the care she has received, she is optimistic about the future. “The therapy here gives me a lot more to hope for and be thankful for,” said Lucy. “I have to keep looking forward and thinking positive no matter how hard it is because it’s only going to get better -- one day at a time.”