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Patient Success Stories

Relearning Lost Skills After Surgery

Robert Nunez is a fighter, to say the least. The 60-year-old husband, father and grandfather has been a diabetic for more than four decades and has undergone kidney dialysis for nine years. In addition to living with these chronic health issues, he just spent nearly a year in the hospital. 

In the fall of 2012, Robert visited his wound-care specialist about a sore on the bottom of his foot. When the sore didn’t heal after weeks of treatment, his physician referred him to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where he underwent a partial leg amputation to prevent further loss of function in his leg. The surgeon on the medical staff successfully saved Robert’s leg, but Robert also suffers from heart damage as a result of his diabetes, a condition that could have significant impact on any future surgical procedures and limit his chances for survival.

“Although my father was very ill, everyone we encountered in the hospital encouraged us to stay positive,” said Christina Nunez, Robert’s daughter. “I remember Madeleine in acute rehab was so supportive and accommodating to not only my father’s physical needs, but she also tended to our emotional and spiritual needs. She was engaging, personable, and explained everything that was happening to my father.”

Due to his medical condition, Robert spent the majority of his hospital stays in the Acute Rehabilitation Unit at Texas Health Dallas, where hospital employees worked diligently with him on his recovery. The rehabilitation program at Texas Health Dallas provides comprehensive and compassionate care to patients recovering from injury, illness or surgery. In Robert’s case, the goal of the unit’s multidisciplinary team of physicians on the medical staff, nurses and therapists was to help him regain functionality and return to his active lifestyle.

But despite the abundance of expert care, Robert’s condition deteriorated, and he experienced further complications. His blood pressure dropped, and as a result he went into respiratory failure. He underwent a tracheostomy to allow for the removal of secretions that had built up in his lungs and to provide an airway for better breathing. With the tube inserted in his throat, Robert also needed a way to eat, so doctors performed a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) to insert a feeding tube in his stomach. However, by May 2013, his situation was still looking grave.

But Robert was not a quitter ? and neither was the medical team at Texas Health Dallas, including physicians on the medical staff, nurses, patient-care technicians, dietitians, speech pathologists, and respiratory, occupational and physical therapists. They were committed to seeing him through his illness, and they worked diligently around the clock to provide dedicated patient-centered care and advanced monitoring services.

“There were a few rough months, but Mr. Nunez stayed committed to his treatment plan,” said Madeleine. “He got better because he had strong faith in the hands that cared for him. His wife and daughter were receptive to recommendations from the medical team, so naturally we were all thrilled when the pulmonologists and respiratory therapists were able to wean him off the mechanical ventilator, and he was able to breathe on his own again.”

Robert’s condition continued to improve, and eventually the tracheostomy was discontinued and the feeding tube was removed. As a result, he regained his ability to speak without the use of a speaking valve, and he transitioned to safely tolerate eating by mouth. In August 2013, Robert was discharged from the hospital to an area skilled-nursing facility before rejoining his family in their Dallas home just in time to celebrate the holidays.

“It is our belief that when the people around you or the environment is positive, it makes you stronger, and your faith gets stronger, and eventually it heals you physically,” said Christina. “We always just put all our faith in good people and prayer, and at the end it was always in God’s hands. It took a lot of faith between us all to heal my dad, and we are blessed for this miracle.”

Today, Robert has gained back his speech and swallowing skills by using the exercises and strategies he had learned from Madeleine during his stay in the acute-rehabilitation unit at Texas Health Dallas, in addition to making progress in his activities-of-daily-living skills, guided by his occupational and physical therapists. Most recently, Robert regained enough strength to successfully transfer himself from his wheelchair to his bed without additional support, in addition to holding a sitting posture for longer than 30 minutes—simple tasks most of us often take for granted.

Madeleine adds, “I truly believe Mr. Nunez will continue to benefit from aggressive skilled therapy, and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas offers this continuum of therapy services, from acute rehab to inpatient rehab to outpatient therapy, and we’ll be here for him when he’s ready.”

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