Sam's story

Sam Samara laying in bed, wearing glasses and a gray t-shirt.
Sam Samara, 60, is an Amazon truck driver with a nation-wide route. He was taking a short break from driving one day when he noticed some swelling in his feet. He changed from his work boots into a regular pair of shoes and found they wouldn’t fit. That’s when Sam noticed that his legs were also swollen. Concerned about what was happening, Sam drove himself to the closest emergency room. 
At the hospital, testing determined that his blood sugar was 450; a normal blood sugar is 90 to 130. Sam was diagnosed with diabetes. Further testing and imaging found Sam’s lungs were filled with fluid and he had four blockages in his heart. He immediately underwent emergency open-heart surgery. When he had trouble waking up from surgery, Sam was given a tracheotomy and put on a ventilator to help him breathe. Unable to eat or drink, a feeding tube was placed to provide fluids and nutrition.
Sam would remain in the hospital for the next two weeks recovering from surgery. Once stabilized, his physicians recommended inpatient rehabilitation to help regain strength and endurance. 
Upon arrival at SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital – Bridgeton, Sam could not speak and was continuing to receive all nutrition via a feeding tube. He was also on supplemental oxygen to help with his constant shortness of breath. Sam required assistance for all self-care tasks and transfers, which were exhausting and required rest during and after. 
Sam set goals to walk, speak and eat again. His physician-led care team of nurses and physical, occupational and speech therapists collaborated to create a customized plan to help him get there.   
Physical therapists focused their sessions on improving Sam’s endurance. Initially, Sam was only able to walk 50 feet with a walker and was struggling with his balance. His therapy team utilized a variety of exercises and techniques to help Sam regain strength so he could walk further with improved stability. 
In occupational therapy, Sam and his team focused on improving endurance and activity tolerance. They provided education on how to conserve energy while completing self-care and household tasks, including laundry, which he put into practice in the hospital’s activities of daily living (ADL) suite. Occupational therapists also worked with Sam on exercises to improve strength, stability and balance. 
Speech therapists worked with Sam to increase his muscle strength and function so he could regain his voice and swallow safely. Therapists incorporated Synchrony Dysphagia Solutions, which combines a virtual environment and surface electromyography (sEMG) to engage patients in fun, interactive swallowing and speech exercises. This allowed to Sam to increase muscle strength and function for safe swallowing while completing trials of different textures of foods and liquids. As Sam’s ability to swallow improved, he was able to have his feeding tube removed and upgraded to a diet of pureed foods and mildly thickened liquids. 
After 23 days at SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital – Bridgeton, Sam made great improvements. He was able to walk 700 feet using a wheeled walker without assistance from a therapist. He was also able to complete all of his self-care tasks with only supervision and without supplemental oxygen.
Sam said that the turning point in his recovery was when his voice returned and he was finally able to talk with his wife, family and friends. He credits his wife for her unending support. “My wife was there every day,” Sam said. “She met with a lot of doctors, nurses and therapists and was trained on how to do things correctly so she could help me when I returned home.” Sam is looking forward to returning home and relaxing with some of his favorite movies. Coined “The Miracle” by his doctors, Sam also plans to watch his diet and monitor his blood sugar.
Sam continued his recovery with outpatient rehabilitation with a focus on continuing to rebuild strength, transition to a normal diet and return to other activities. Sam had high praise for his care team, calling his experience at SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital – Bridgeton “perfect” and expressing his appreciation to the staff for helping him reach his goals.