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Overcoming COVID-19 and the the success of rehabilitation

A LONG HARD ROAD

When Leasa Eddy realized she had COVID-19, her first thought was her daughter. Just a few days earlier, she had hosted an outdoor, socially distanced, masked baby shower to celebrate her daughter’s second baby. Relieved that her daughter tested negative, Leasa rode out what she described as the worst fatigue she’d ever felt in her life. But there were greater challenges to come.

An independent, active woman, Leasa is a take-charge, joyful person. She loves to cook and was delivering meals to friends on a weekly basis. She’s an avid billiards player, volunteer for her church and enthusiastic about her work as a project manager for a large printing company. As an essential worker, she went to work and did everything she could to stay clear of the virus.

When she weathered the worst of the fatigue, she noticed her legs weren’t working right. She recalled that she walked like Frankenstein’s monster and even fainted. “I should’ve called the hospital then, but being an independent, don’t-need-help person, I rode it out,” she remembers. She reached out to her chiropractor, thinking it was sciatica.

THE DAY WHEN IT ALL CHANGED

A few days later, Leasa woke up and needed to hold onto the wall of her bedroom to get to the bathroom. She made it, but when she tried to return to her bedroom, she couldn’t walk. She still tears up when she remembers the agonizing 45-minute crawl from the bathroom to her bed where she’d left her phone.

She remembers thinking, “God, I’ll give it one last try.” Leasa found a gap between the mattress and the box spring and used that to pull herself up to get her phone.

Leasa called her friend who came over, packed a bag and called 911. Leasa arrived at the Hoag Emergency Department. She met with Philip A. Robinson, M.D., medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at Hoag. After undergoing an MRI and spinal tap, she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder where the body’s immune system attacks healthy nerves, and began her first of 21 days at Hoag.

“The nurses stayed with me the entire time,” she says. They made her feel cared for not just as a patient but as a friend. Keyvan Esmaeili, M.D., medical director of the Fudge Family Acute Rehabilitation Center (FFARC), who oversaw her physical rehabilitation, became her fierce advocate when her insurance wouldn’t cover her treatment at the FFARC.

TEST OF WILL

Her time at the FFARC was the greatest challenge she’d ever faced: learning to walk again. Deeply grateful for the care she’d received at Hoag and the efforts they took to get her into rehab, she told the doctors and her therapists Allie, Mary and Robin, “I’ll do whatever you ask.”

And she did. On the fourth day, everyone cheered when she stood up using the parallel bars. Dr. Esmaeili happened to be on hand to witness her accomplishment and said, “Great. Now do it again.”

No matter how terrifying it felt to get out of bed, walk and relearn the skills she’d taken for granted, she rallied her can-do spirit to meet each benchmark. The final test was the last night she spent in the apartment at the FFARC without any assistance from the nurses to prepare food or use the facilities.

Today, Leasa is the proud grandmother of Lauren, who is the little sister to Hayley. While her recovery is slow but progressing–she plans to return to work in November 2020–she counts herself fortunate to have her family, friends and faith that got her through illness and rehabilitation.

“At Hoag, I met people fighting for me, and I never felt alone,” Leasa says.

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