- Sara Martin
Don is an optimistic and tenacious food genius with a love for animals and helping others. However, in June of 2020, he realized he needed some assistance of his own when he started to experience debilitating pain in his lower back. He thought he had thrown out his back or maybe pinched a nerve, but a standard chiropractic adjustment revealed a far more serious issue. Don recalls the pain began shooting down his legs like lightening as the day progressed. By nightfall, both of his legs were numb, he was unable to move the left one, and the right one was not far behind. Finally, he rushed to the emergency room, hoping to discover the real problem.
One week later, Don woke up in the hospital, unable to move or speak. The medical staff informed him that he had undergone multiple surgeries to remove an abscess which had destroyed much of the muscle around his spine. He had received a tracheostomy, tube inserted through the windpipe, to help him breathe as key muscle and nerve groups were damaged by the abscess. After one month in the hospital, Don had developed bed sores on his tailbone from lying on his back. He transferred to a Long-Term Acute Care Hospital, or “LTACH”, for continued inpatient treatment and physical therapy. Don received 8 months of wound care for his skin ulcers before they were healed enough for him to be discharged.
In November, Don was transferred to a Specialized Nursing Facility, or “SNF”, in LA County. This is where he met his most trusted physical therapist and began to see great progress in his recovery. By February 2021, he was able to get himself to a standing position, and in March he was even able to walk a little. By the time he discharged back to Redding in April, he had regained about 85% control of his arms, which allowed him to get around with the use of a wheelchair. Nonetheless, a couple weeks after returning to live in his friend’s garage, he was rushed to the ER again with severe dehydration. Luckily, this trip to the emergency room resulted in a referral to the SCHC HOPE Medical Respite Program.
Upon intake, Don was assigned a primary care provider, enabling him to receive the necessary referrals for follow-up care. Don was able to begin working with a local physical therapist not long after his stay began in the SCHC HOPE Medical Respite Program. He was also able to enlist a home-health aid to help with daily tasks. In addition to his other medical goals, Don is hopeful that he will be able to secure a more appropriate living situation after having completed housing applications with Shasta Community Health Center’s Social Worker, Sarah Till. While he was comfortable staying with friends before, it is no longer a viable option as his accessibility needs have changed dramatically.
Eleven months after his initial symptoms presented, Don was still unable to feel his legs other than the constant “pins and needles” sensation familiar to many with nerve damage. Don says the lack of proprioception, the ability to feel where one’s body is and whether it is moving, has been one of his greatest challenges with learning to walk again. Additionally, new abscesses continue to develop on his legs, and his knees are showing signs of arthritis from lack of movement. Despite the obstacles, Don focused on the relief he felt, having a stable and effective care team looking out for his wellbeing.
While he was nervous about leaving the SCHC HOPE Medical Respite program, Don reported feeling less “stuck” since his physical therapy and home health services had been secured. Like many others who have gone through the SCHC HOPE Medical Respite program, one of his favorite aspects was having the team check-in every day. Once Don acquires permanent housing, he will be eligible for an IHSS worker to help with daily tasks around the house. When asked if there were any thoughts he wanted to share, Don offered this piece of wisdom: “when things are tough, text or call someone, do not get trapped in your own head”. This advice kept him focused on setting goals at each new stage of recovery, further igniting his motivation for a bright future.
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