Laura Day had a lot to look forward to — her 2-year old daughter was anticipating Santa’s arrival, she had a baby on the way, and life with her boyfriend was good.
In the days before Christmas, Laura was stricken with a stomach bug – nothing out of the ordinary, just a nuisance. But in the days after Christmas, Laura experienced an odd tingling in her toes. By Jan. 4, her life took a dramatic turn. That was the day she was admitted to Hartford Hospital.
What happened next was a 41-day journey that Laura calls a “hard road, but a good road.”
Laura was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) — a rare and serious disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. GBS can leave patients paralyzed for an extended period of time. It’s not unusual for it to appear after a digestive tract infection, as in Laura’s case.
At her worst, Laura had trouble getting in and out of bed, walking, swallowing, and even talking. But the team at Hartford Hospital’s inpatient rehabilitation unit was determined to see her regain her mobility and walk again.
Jenna DiGirolamo, PT, Sarah Santos, RN, and Marge Araujo, RN, Tracy Babon, OT, and Christina Ellis, PCA, worked tirelessly with Laura to help restore movement, confidence, and strength. Physical therapy was intense, up to three hours a day, as the team and Laura challenged muscles and movement. But the work wasn’t just physical.
“We had to build a rapport and trust. It was important that she trusted us to get her through those tasks,” says DiGirolamo. “Laura had to relearn the movements of daily living.”
Laura agrees that trust played a big part in her recovery. “Constantly falling was a frustration,” she recalls. “It was also my biggest fear. But they were my cheerleaders and I couldn’t ask to for a better staff or unit. They’re just not nurses — they’re family.”
“At one point, she wasn’t making much progress. We built a trust. We got to know her, and she got familiar with us,” shares Marge Araujo, RN. “We had to put ourselves in her shoes. It was up to us to make her feel safe and comfortable.”
“The commitment of the nurses and therapists who treated Laura is at the center of our goal of #123. To be number one in customer service in the Northeast by 2023, each patient should experience this same level of compassionate care.” said Bimal Patel, President of Hartford Hospital. “This is also a testament to the seamless coordination of care between our hospital and the rehabilitation network.”
For Laura and the team, it’s a case of mutual admiration, with each side crediting the other for Laura’s success.
“Laura is the epitome of what our rehab job is,” says DiGirolamo. “Going from being able to do very little on your own to success doing those things. I feel so happy for her. It’s so gratifying to see a patient progress so well.”
The icing on the cake came recently, when Laura took her first real steps during physical therapy. As her boyfriend Christopher watched, she carefully and mindfully put one foot in front of another, with the assistance of the therapists and a walker. There, Christopher stepped forward and got on one knee, revealed an engagement ring, and proposed to Laura.
Laura was discharged on Valentine’s Day, with improved strength and resolve to continue the hard work of rehabilitation. She will receive in-home therapy, followed by outpatient physical therapy in the coming weeks and months. The couple’s baby is due in April, and the future looks bright. One thing is certain — when she walks down the aisle of matrimony, she’ll have a team of Hartford HealthCare cheerleaders watching with joy.