Thelma Stilwell is a woman who knows how to beat the odds.
Thelma's remarkable story began with what she thought was simply an asthma attack. But after arriving at Three Rivers Medical Center, she found out otherwise. Doctors diagnosed Thelma with pneumonia and started her on antibiotics.
Then, Thelma had an anaphylactic reaction to the antibiotic. Thelma's reaction was so severe, she required intubation. For a higher level of care, she was transferred to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. Despite being on a ventilator, Thelma remained in respiratory failure. To increase the amount of oxygen to the bottom and back portions of the lungs, she was placed in the prone position.
A week later, Thelma transferred to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center for consideration of ECMO. ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. It is a lung bypass system that works outside the body to provide prolonged support when the lungs are no longer able to sustain life. ECMO is only used in the most serious instances of respiratory failure. After evaluation by the doctors at LEMC, Thelma's list of diagnoses was extensive, including:
- Acute hypoxemic (too little oxygen) and hypercapnia (too much carbon dioxide) respiratory failure
- Stenotrophomonas pneumonia
- Pseudomonas pneumonia
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
Despite this, Thelma did not require ECMO. But she was so critically ill, doctors weren't sure she would survive the next 24 hours.
But Thelma is a fighter.
After surviving the first harrowing 24 hours, Thelma conquered another 24. She continued despite the odds, until she could begin to wean from the ventilator. But, Thelma's progress was limited by a condition known as acute quadriplegic myopathy, also known as critical illness myopathy. According to her neurologist, "the severity and reconditioning will likely take months, if not up to a year, for recovery." With this, Thelma was referred to Vibra Specialty Hospital of Portland.
Thelma arrived at Vibra for ventilator weaning, tracheostomy decannulation, and care for critical illness myopathy. Once again, Thelma defied the odds. In less than twelve days she liberated from the ventilator. Eleven days later, her tracheostomy tube was permanently removed.
For the first time in over seven weeks, Thelma was breathing completely on her own.
Even more remarkable was Thelma's recovery from critical illness myopathy. When she arrived at Vibra, Thelma could only wiggle her fingers and toes. She could nod her head to communicate and press a call button. These were the reasons her neurologist anticipated a lengthy recovery.
But within the first few days of working with Vibra's physical therapy team, Thelma could sit for about 30 seconds. Though she required maximum assistance, this was a huge accomplishment! A week and a half later, Thelma was standing with maximum assistance of two people.
As her stay progressed, so did her recovery. Less than three weeks into her recovery, Thelma began taking steps in the parallel bars. She also made great progress with transfers in that timespan. Initially, Thelma required the Hoyer lift to get in-and-out of bed. This device provides 90-100% assistance with transfers. Now, she could use pivot transfers with the assistance of the therapy team.
What might be the most remarkable is that within a month, Thelma was walking with a walker.
After five weeks at Vibra, Thelma discharged home with her husband. Her smile says it all. Thelma defied the odds and we are looking forward to seeing what she'll conquer next!Posted By