Willis' story

Willis Rogers standing in a doorway wearing a hat that says St. Louis, Missouri and striped shirt.

Former truck driver and bakery machinist Willis Rogers, 62, was making the most of his retirement by spending time with his grandchildren, working on cars and fishing. After he and his wife both tested positive for COVID-19, Willis was quarantining at home when he suddenly experienced a “funny feeling” in his hand before falling to the floor, unable to get up. His wife called 911 and he was rushed the emergency room at a local hospital.

After several tests were completed, including an MRI, it was determined that Willis had suffered a stroke. After a week in the hospital, physicians recommended Willis be moved to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital where he could receive intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy. Willis and his wife selected SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital – Bridgeton.

Upon admission, Willis required assistance to stand, walk and navigate stairs. He also had minimal movement in his right arm and struggled to find the right words making it difficult to communicate with his care team and family members. Willis was also experiencing moderate cognitive deficits and had trouble sequencing tasks and planning things.

Willis’ physician-led team of nurses and physical, occupational and speech therapists devised a plan to help him become more functional and independent. In speech therapy, Willis participated in both individual and group speech therapy, where he worked on word finding, naming exercises and sequencing tasks.

In occupational therapy, Willis’ therapists focused on therapeutic exercises to strengthen his weakened right arm. Willis looked forward to his therapy sessions and was extremely motivated to continue to make progress and reach new goals.

The focus in physical therapy was on improving the strength of his right leg and arm as well as improving Willis’ overall standing balance to increase his ability to walk safely and independently. His therapy frequently incorporated the use of an ankle weight on his right leg during daily tasks to further improve leg strength.

After 31 days at SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital, Willis was able to stand without supervision and walk and navigate stairs with minimal supervision. His speech improved significantly and Willis was able to have conversations with minimal word finding issues or speech difficulties. He also regained full use of his right arm.

Willis was thankful for the support of his wife, who attended family training to help his continued progress at home. He also expressed his gratitude to the rehabilitation staff, saying, “I would recommend SSM Health Rehabilitation Hospital to anyone needing rehabilitation, they have helped me learn to walk again.”

Upon his return home, Willis was most looking forward to spending time with his grandchildren and getting back to his favorite hobbies of fishing and working on cars.