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Home > Medical Services > Rehabilitation > Inpatient Rehabilitation > Patient Stories > Mercy IRU helps man from bedridden to front-porch sittin’
Michael Allred enjoys a quiet moment with his mother, Phyllis Scheeler, on the front porch of her home near Brighton while he continues to recover from critical illness myopathy in July 2018.
In November 2017, 54-year-old Michael Allred discovered a strange lump on his chest.
“One day I had an itch,” says the Wayland, Iowa, resident. “That’s when I felt a lump in my breast.”
The lump was breast cancer, an uncommon diagnosis in men.
Hoping to shrink the tumor enough to avoid surgery, Michael started chemotherapy at a healthcare facility close to home.
“It was supposed to be 12 sessions of chemo,” he explains.
But, five sessions into treatment, it became hard for him to breathe. His lungs were inflamed and he soon found himself fighting for life in a hospital intensive care unit with support from a ventilator, tracheostomy and feeding tube.
“He was in intensive care for almost two months,” his mom, retired nurse Phyllis Scheeler, says. “He lay there, basically in a paralytic state, wasting all his muscles.”
With help from his supportive family, Michael slowly weaned off the ventilator. That meant he was finally ready to leave the intensive care unit, move to a regular medical floor, and then transfer to an inpatient rehabilitation program to help retrain his muscles.
He arrived at Mercy Medical Center’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit (IRU) on May 7, 2018, to begin his journey to a stronger body.
“Michael had critical illness myopathy,” explains Dr. Carla Schulz, medical director of Mercy IRU. “My first memory of meeting him, he was in his bed. He had his NG (feeding) tube in and he could not even move his index finger. He had no strength to move anything or even shake his head.”
Michael was on multiple medications. His lip was blistered from the breathing tube that had been supporting his lungs for so long. His feet were cracked. He had bed sores that required his body to be turned every two hours. He still had a tracheostomy in addition to a feeding tube.
“They really took a challenge,” says Phyllis. “I’m telling you.”
For a body as weary as Michael’s, Dr. Schulz says, recovery starts with small victories that build larger ones.
“Michael’s first day,” she explains, “his speech therapist was able to use a special camera to look at his larynx, pharyngeal airway and his swallowing mechanism. She felt, after doing this, that it was safe to take the NG out. When he had the NG tube out, he didn’t have to cough so much. If he wasn’t coughing so much he didn’t have to use so much energy, and then that energy could go to his healing while participating in occupational therapy and physical therapy.”
This was the first step forward, a step that encouraged both Michael and his mom. That encouragement continued when his care team gathered around his bedside each week to hold a care conference.
“They would come in and do care conferences, the whole team — dietary, nursing , occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy — every one of them was in the room and told you exactly what was going on and what they were doing,” says Phyllis. “The continuity was what we really liked because they involved everybody. It was amazing. It was awesome how well they communicated with each other. We liked that.”
“When all of us, myself, nursing staff and everybody included, are just thinking about Michael and how we can serve Michael, we’re looking at the whole person,” Dr. Schulz adds on the importance of IRU’s care conferences. “We set goals for the next week. If we realize there are challenges or barriers to meeting those goals then we get very creative about how we can remove those barriers. Sometimes it’s just doing something in a fun, different way. Sometimes it’s making sure they have the right brace or bringing in their favorite type of sherbet; whatever gets them over that barrier.”
Coupled with being an extraordinarily cohesive team, seeing a person on the road to recovery and not just a patient in a hospital bed is what makes Mercy’s IRU care so truly unique, says Dr. Schulz.
“I think we really, truly live the Mercy value of The Mercy Touch,” she says. “We care for our patients as people. We know them by name.”
And they celebrate each person’s triumphs.
“The first time Michael was able to make a fist we all jumped up and down for joy,” Dr. Schulz remembers. “And from there it was getting him to set up, the strength to set up unaided in bed, and soon he was feeding himself.”
By the end of June, after three hours of therapy per day for weeks, Michael went from bedridden to walking with assistance. The tracheostomy was gone. His sores had healed. He was, in short, ready to go home.
“They were absolutely his biggest cheering team,” says Phyllis. “The day he left the whole team was in there, including housekeeping. They brought food and a cake and came in singing ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.’”
“I wanted his body to be as strong as it possibly could be,” Dr. Schulz says as Michael readies for possible cancer-related surgery. “I keep him in my prayers that whatever he decides to do surgically can keep him healthy. We’d like to see him back here, but only as a visitor.”
And Michael says he’d like to visit; since IRU is in the midst of a complete remodel, he’d like to see the outcome.
The end result of a year of remodeling will offer 22 colorful, rehab-ready rooms with spacious bathrooms and smart boards to keep patients up-to-date on any changes to their day’s schedule. The unit also aspires to become a Certified Acute Rehab Facility following the construction as well.
An apartment-like space on the new unit will let patients practice skills like cooking and getting in and out of a bathtub before heading home. And the new gymnasium will be home to an antigravity machine — a harness-like device that safely holds patients who can’t bear weight on their legs, allowing the leg muscles to still be moved.
These advanced tools, along with “awesome staff” and the compassionate care of The Mercy Touch will, Dr. Schulz says, continue to help patients achieve their rehabilitation goals, just like Michael.