Rehabilitation Patient Stories
A teacher and facilities director at Maclay School, 51-year-old Scott Eagen is always on his feet. In addition to his career, Scott spends his personal time being active. However, over the years of running and playing basketball regularly, he eventually wore out his medial meniscus.
“I was fine when I would run a few miles a day or play ball, but the next morning getting out of bed was awful,” said Scott. “My knees were achy and swollen. I had finally had it when I was having a hard time going up and down the stairs to see my children.”
After meeting with his primary care doctor, they decided he needed surgery.
“One thing led to another and I actually ended up having eight surgeries over a period of four to five years. The problem was there, there just wasn’t any cartilage left.”
It was time to fix his knees for good so Scott was referred to Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic and met with William Thompson, MD, who performed the previous scopes. They decided to move forward with total knee replacement surgery.
“Dr. Thompson would always listen carefully to diagnose the issue and offer suggestions and advice on how to get the most from my body with minimal pain or damage,” said Scott. “I trust his judgment 100 percent.”
On July 24, 2012, Scott moved forward with bilateral knee replacement surgery in both legs. His surgery was performed by David Bellamy, MD at Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic.
“Dr. Bellamy is the best knee replacement doctor in the region,” said Scott. “I appreciated his professionalism. He called from his personal phone the night of the surgery to check on me. The nurses at the hospital had me up and walking with a walker the same day.”
Following his recovery, Scott went to Tallahassee Memorial’s Rehabilitation Center for inpatient care for a couple of days to learn how to walk again.
After a week of laying low around the house and going to rehab, Scott was able to return to work. “The rehab was tough but we got through it with hard work and a good attitude,” said Scott. “Throughout this process, TMH really made me feel like a person, not a number. They took great care of me.”
“I went to outpatient rehab at the Tallahassee Memorial Rehabilitation Center for orthopedic and sports physical therapy twice a week for about six weeks,” recalled Scott. “I also did a lot of my own rehab at home and at the gym.”
In just 10 days, Scott was back in the full swing of things at home and at work. He began light jogging four months after surgery and was fully recovered after 10 months. Currently, Scott is enjoying his active lifestyle and spending time with his wife, Michelle, their daughter Amber and son Logan.
“I feel like I have added years onto my life,” said Scott. “It’s important for other people to know that anything is possible. I believe you have to have a positive attitude and you can overcome anything. Now instead of acting my age, I can go out and enjoy sports like I’m in my 30s. I run 8-15 miles a week and play and officiate basketball regularly. I even went snow skiing just five and a half months after surgery. Life is good!”
It was 1 am. The kids were asleep and there was complete silence in the pickup truck. In an instant, the quiet black of night flashed with white light as a truck, driving the wrong way on the interstate, hit them head on. Read more
It sounds something like the opening scene to a classic TV show: six friends out on an evening cruise in the Bahamas, it’stheir last night of a relaxing week long vacation in paradise. The dimming light is making navigation hard, and a lack of lit channel markers makes the situation worse. In an instant, the boat strikes a submerged reef, throwing the passengers in all directions.
For Kellie Kraft, wife of Chris Kraft and matron of the well-known Kraft family who own Kraft Nissan in Tallahassee, this was no TV show – this was terrifying reality.
Kellie was ejected from the boat, and instead of landing in safer deep water like the others, she became tangled in a razor sharp coral reef.
“It was a freak accident,” Kellie says. But it was an accident that changed her life.
Stuck, literally, in the throngs of the coral, embedded with pieces of it all over her body, it was clear that Kellie’s injuries were severe.
Kellie was missing large chunks of soft tissue on her legs; her feet, arm and head were mangled and bleeding severely. Both of her knees were completely exposed; the skin on her kneecaps was gone. The tendon connecting her left knee to her leg was severed.
Without Coast Guard and no emergency number to call in the Bahamas, Kellie and the other passengers were rescued by citizen volunteers of the Hope Town Fire and Rescue Department, part of the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association (BASRA), against all odds. Stabilized in Marsh Harbor, Kellie and a frantic Chris – who suffered severe injuries of his own, including a lacerated liver, punctured lung, broken shoulder and head injury – waited all night to be transported to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.
“Chris was desperate. He was severely injured himself, but after seeing my legs and how much tissue I’d lost he begged everyone to ignore him and help me,” recalls Kellie.
The next morning, Kellie and Chris were airlifted to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare where physicians were already waiting for her to arrive. An army of trauma surgeons, wound experts and plastic surgeons worked to repair the extensive damage.
“Initially, they weren’t sure if I would keep my legs, particularly my left leg, but they were able to recreate my knee using muscle from my calf,” said Kellie. “They also prevented me from getting any infections, which was one of the most miraculous parts, considering my open wounds were exposed to seawater and given the amount of coral lodged in my body.”
After weeks in the hospital, Kellie was moved to the Tallahassee Memorial Rehabilitation Center (TMRC) to begin working on mobility and healing while still being transported to TMH for skin graph surgeries.
“The communication between the hospital and the rehabilitation center was excellent. Everyone was on the same page, and had the same goal to help me get better. As soon as I arrived at TMRC, they were working to get me mobile – putting me in a wheelchair and building up my upper body strength – with occupational and physical therapy.”
Due to the deep wounds in Kellie’s legs, physicians employed V.A.C. therapy – a type of negative pressure therapy that healed her wounds from the inside out. Kellie had up to four of these devices on her body, working 24/7 to heal and prevent infection. Each of these V.A.C. therapy sites had to be cleaned and redressed every other day, an excruciating process that took over four hours – in addition to Kellie’s already challenging rehabilitation schedule, which included physical and occupational therapy.
Kellie’s injuries severely limited her mobility. Her therapy started with small movements focused on basic mobility to assist her transfers from the hospital bed to a wheelchair. After one month, she was able to stand and pivot to get in and out of bed or a chair. Throughout months of therapy, at TMRC and at home, Kellie continued to progress.
“It wasn’t easy,” Kellie remembers. “I was scared to move in the beginning, there was a lot of pain, but the staff at TMRC were so warm, kind and encouraging. They gave me the drive to stick with it – they’re the reason I’m able to walk today.”
Sheree Porter, MS, CCC-SLP, Rehabilitation Program Manager, not only remembers Kellie’s time at TMRC, but still stays in touch with her today.
“Kellie recovered from her very serious injuries so well thanks to the excellent medical treatment she received along with aggressive physical therapy, occupational therapy and wound care intervention,” said Sheree. “But the most crucial key to her recovery was her determination. Kellie demonstrated the ABC’s of success: she maintained a positive ‘Attitude,’ she ‘Believed’ she was going to heal, and she ‘Committed’ herself to the therapeutic process.”
Kellie left TMRC after two months of in-patient rehabilitation, and several additional surgeries, and began receiving therapy at home. She walks with a cane today, but considering the trauma she’s been through she’s come farther than she thought possible.
“I simply can’t say enough good things about every single person at Tallahassee Memorial who helped me. The physicians, nurses, therapists, technicians, orderlies – even the folks who delivered food and cleaned the rooms – were so professional and compassionate.”
As a well-known resident in a small town, Kellie has occasion to see several of those on the medical team that saved her.
“Sometimes when I run into a physician or nurse at the grocery store, I’ll just go up and say ‘thank you,’” said Kellie. “Every time I drive by TMRC I smile. I became very attached to all the doctors and nurses, I’ll have that bond forever.”
All at once human life can be both delicate and indestructible. The human body is an almost unbelievable network of tiny valves, strong bones and electrical impulses that can literally heal itself, yet potentially succumb so easily.
This vulnerability and strength is what makes life so precious – constant risk tempered with the sheer willingness to persevere. This juxtaposition shows itself throughout life – physically, mentally and emotionally – for us all. But for Clary Bateman, the last four years of her life have been a constant reminder of how far we can be pushed and the strength we’re capable of.
She was 14, an 8th grader at W.R. Tolar K-8 School in Bristol, Fla. An athlete competing in track, softball and basketball. A straight A student. But on February 28, 2011, out riding 4-wheelers with a friend, Clary came face-to-face with the thin line between life and death. Caught in a dust cloud, she didn’t see a stop sign and inadvertently pulled out onto a highway – she was hit by a truck going 60 miles per hour.
Arriving at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) via life flight with a severe open skull traumatic brain injury, Clary’s prognosis was bleak. Her body was broken – arm, legs, pelvis, jaw, skull – and she had physically lost part of her brain.
“She arrived neurologically devastated,” said Christopher Rumana, MD, neurosurgeon at Tallahassee Memorial. “Her skull was open and she suffered a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. The damage was significant, but we remained positive and worked to incorporate her family into her care, keeping them informed and involved.”
Clary also had emergency orthopedic surgery to, quite literally, put her back together.
“Clary had left femoral and tibial shaft fractures and they both required surgical stabilization with titanium rods,” said Hank Hutchinson, MD, orthopedic trauma surgeon at Tallahassee Memorial. “The tibia fracture had several associated wounds that were repaired with multiple surgeries and skin grafts.”
After 20 or more surgeries, Clary was alive, but in a coma. She stayed at Tallahassee Memorial for three-and-a-half months, fighting to stay alive and slowly healing.
And then, two months after returning home and without any notice, Clary woke up.
“It was the middle of the night, around 1 a.m.,” remembers Edie Ethridge, Clary’s mom. “She’d been in a coma for five-and-a-half months and then, all of a sudden, she was awake and making noise. She fought her way back.”
With Clary now awake, against the odds, the path to rehabilitation started to come into focus.
“We started some rehabilitation while Clary was still in her coma,” said Edie. “We were vigilant about moving her body and working to engage her however we could, but now that she was awake she worked in earnest to make positive steps towards recovery.”
In December 2011, almost ten months after her accident, Clary began working with therapists at the Neurological Rehabilitation Outpatient Unit at the Tallahassee Memorial Rehabilitation Center (TMRC).
“For me, meeting patients with traumatic brain injuries and their families is a magical moment,” said Sheree Porter, MS, CCC-SLP, TMRC’s Rehabilitation Program Manager. “Clary’s family did’t realize it at the time, but I knew that we are forming a very close bond that would transcend Clary’s situation. We become united, a type of family, with a laser focus on making positive steps towards her recovery.”
Clary’s therapy care team, Rebecca Greenhill, a TMH speech language pathologist, Patricia Quinsey, a TMH physical therapist and Helene Bennitt, a TMH occupational therapist, have seen Clary make drastic progress since her first days in therapy.
“At first, Clary only communicated with gestures and facial expressions,” said Rebecca. “Our therapy began with making sounds, just creating noise. Clary’s brain damage effected her temporal lobe, the area of the brain that is responsible for language and speech, so she lost the building blocks of communication – she’s not only relearning everything, she’s having to find new ways to learn it.”
After almost 4 years in weekly therapy, Clary has moved far beyond simple noises and gestures. She now has a vocabulary of words that is growing with each therapy session. Her mobility is also improving through her work with Patricia and Helene, as well as the help of a baclofen pump that was implanted in her stomach by Dr. Rumana. The constant flow of baclofen helps improve her mobility by creating the right balance of flexibility and rigidness in her musculoskeletal system.
“Clary’s having to learn new ways to tell her body to move,” said Helene. “Particularly in her right arm, she has very limited movement. We’ve come a long way in increasing the function of her arm, but also in creating new ways of completing activities for daily living despite her reduced mobility.”
Maybe most importantly, Clary’s spunky personality is shining through again. Thanks in part to her relationship with a very special part of her therapy team, Bogey. A Boykin Spaniel from Tallahassee Memorial’s Animal Therapy program, Bogey has a special relationship with Clary that has helped her progress in her rehabilitation. Rebecca, Patricia and Helene incorporate Bogey into every facet of Clary’s therapy, having her give voice commands and use a leash to walk Bogey with assistance. This unique approach interconnects her therapies and helps to facilitate memory and communication.
“Clary’s a miracle,” said Richard Gardner, Bogey’s handler and a volunteer in the Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy program. “One of the biggest moments we’ve had was around Thanksgiving 2014, we watched as Clary stroked Bogey from head to tail with her right hand. It was a huge achievement for Clary – we were all thrilled!”
While Clary has made amazing strides, and is sassier than ever, she’s still fighting every day to take another step forward.
“In every aspect of her care, TMH has taken Clary’s injury and recovery personally,” said Edie. “They truly want Clary to get better. As much as they’ve helped Clary, they’ve helped us, her family, equally.”
In May of 2015, Clary graduated from Blountstown High School, receiving two standing ovations. She accepted her diploma and celebrated with family and friends – including her TMH therapists and, of course, Bogey.
“I feel lucky to have had access to a place like TMH, but even more lucky to have a daughter who is as strong as Clary,” said Edie. “We call her ‘Clary strong’ – she’s living proof of something most of us never see, how strong a person can really be.”