Joette Kelly, 55, is a woman full of spirit. She is one who rolls with the punches, even when the punches unexpectedly paralyzed her from the waist down. On June 23, Joette was baking a cake in preparation for a trip to the lake when she began experiencing lower back pain. She didn't think the pain was anything out of the ordinary, so she did some various stretching exercises to try and alleviate it. But the pain progressed, and she eventually had to sit down just to stir the cake batter. An hour later, when the cake was done, Joette had to crawl to the oven to take it out.
Thinking the pain was caused by a pinched nerve, Joette's husband, Patrick, took her to a local chiropractor who then sent them to the ER in their hometown of Bryan, Ohio. The physicians there sent Joette to Lutheran Hospital for an MRI, which revealed a blood clot in her spine. Paralyzed from the waist down, Joette spent two and a half days in the ICU at Lutheran and a day in the neurology unit before being transferred to the Rehab Hospital, where she stayed five weeks.
Joette's first few days at Rehab Hospital were not pleasant.
"Just showering and getting dressed in the mornings was terrible," said Joette. "I used to be an active, physically fit person, but getting from the bed to the shower, from the shower to the bed and getting dressed was too much. By breakfast, I was whipped."
Her care team realized a change was needed, so Joette began showering at night after therapy, which she attended three hours a day seven days a week.
"The therapy classes were excellent," said Joette. "There were times I didn't feel like going, but I knew if I didn't go I wouldn't get better. My first two weeks, I was just exhausted.
"Most of my exercises were geared to the total body," said Joette. "Upper body exercises are really important for an injury of my sort because you now have to rely on upper body strength since you no longer have use of your legs. Lower body exercises are also done to help you get back as much as you can as soon as you can
"The therapists were great with me, but they were great with others, too," Joette added. "I think I was the person who needed the most care at that time, so they gave me the best of the best. But all the nurses and therapists helped whenever there was a need. Everyone took care of everyone."
When Joette left Rehab Hospital, the goal was for her to be able to function from a wheelchair. She has already surpassed that goal. She now walks some with a walker and wears a brace on her right leg.
"When I went in, all I could move were the toes on my left foot," said Joette. "Now my left leg is almost all the way back to normal. My right leg still has very little sensation, but we are now doing electric stimulation on it to try to wake it up. And I have no bodily function control, so I have to self catheterize and use suppositories.
"I was told that I should get back the majority of what functionality will return in the first three to six months but that improvements can continue for up to two years," said Joette. "I still have plenty of time for things to return. All in all, I'm in pretty good shape."
Joette, who now attends outpatient therapy three times a week two hours a day in Bryan, feels the whole ordeal has revealed two things to her.
"I have never taken my health for granted," said Joette. "But this experience has given me a whole new perspective on the healthcare industry and just how hard healthcare professionals work every day and how dedicated they are. It has also opened my eyes to how inconvenient the world is for handicapped people. Hopefully, I will be able to make more people aware of things that need to be done to help us in the future.
"The Rehab Hospital was great," said Joette. "The therapists were very professional and very good. The nurses were awesome, and the food was excellent. If I can say that after being there for five weeks, it must be pretty good!"