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One Step at a Time

Posted on July 7, 2020

Dandridge Woman Walks Again After “Miracle” Operation

Tom and Yvonne SimsLast summer, Yvonne Sims thought she would never walk again. The crippling stiffness in her arms and legs and her sore joints was overwhelming. By the time she saw an orthopedic doctor, her rigid hands were immobile and her feet turned inward, making each step almost unbearable. An MRI revealed a large disc herniation and some overgrowth of posterior soft tissue pushing on her spinal cord from the back. The slipped discs were like a garden hose with kinks in it. Without surgery, Yvonne was facing paralysis.

In August 2019, Luke Madigan, MD, spine specialist at Parkwest Medical Center, performed an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion at C6-7 (near the base of the neck). Dr. Madigan then performed a C6-T1 (near the top of the thoracic part of the spine) decompression and fusion to access the posterior soft tissue that was pinching on her cord.

The Road to Recovery

Yvonne went from Parkwest to Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, where patients with brain or spine injuries can receive intense rehabilitation. Her husband Tom never left her side.

“My husband Tom has been my rock,” Yvonne states. “I got stronger, it got easier. I had my husband with me, and he helped me get around.”

Tom Sims is full of gratitude toward God and toward his wife’s caregivers.

“The staff at PNRC was supportive and inclusive, and allowed us plenty of ‘rope’ to explore and push through the recovery,” he says. “Nate single-handedly taught Ms. Yvonne how to walk again. He would take her just far enough to make her wonder if she could, then a little bit more to prove that she could, indeed.”

He is referring to PNRC physical therapist Nate Bresler, who notes, “My role is to evaluate and treat patients to restore them to their highest level of functional capacity and independence possible, train family members to assist them as needed, and make recommendations to facilitate independence as well.”

The physical therapist recalls Yvonne making excellent progress while at PNRC. Bresler worked with Yvonne on lower-extremity strengthening, coordination and balance activities from standing postures, both with and without upper-extremity support. The activities helped normalize her gait pattern and improved Yvonne’s confidence in her abilities.

“You have to be able to safely push patients past their current comfort zone while in therapy and have them do things you know they can accomplish with assistance, even though they may be fearful and somewhat unwilling to try,” says Bresler. “As they improve and see themselves regaining their abilities, they gain confidence and become more willing to push further.”

Krista Morgan, occupational therapist with PNRC, also aided in Sims’ healing. Morgan says, “As an occupational therapist, I teach people how to adapt and perform daily tasks with their newly acquired challenges. I also work on improving any deficit areas that are hindering task performance, such as strength, fine and gross motor coordination, attention to task, problem-solving, and balance.”

Morgan recalls, “Yvonne and Tom were a joy to work with. If you can brighten someone’s day in any way, it helps so much with their overall experience and how they respond to treatment. In turn, they both brightened my day.”

Motivated to Walk Again

During their daily physical therapy sessions, Bresler would assist Yvonne with slow movements, encouraging her every step of the way that she could go just a little bit farther – and she did.

Yvonne continued her therapy at home with an exercise program that her husband also learned so they could continue maximizing her efforts. Yvonne transitioned from a walker to a walking stick, and she is now able to walk without assistance.

“I felt strong, really strong. It was a challenge, but it was a good challenge,” Yvonne recalls. She continued her therapy at home for several weeks, praying all the time.

She says her healing, with the help of the physicians and staff at Patricia Neal and Parkwest, was an act of God. “I was immediately taken care of –and I couldn’t ask for more efficient people.”