Deloris Lookadoo, a 64-year old Floridian, loved to keep busy. When she wasn’t working at her job loading semi-trucks or doing carpentry projects, she was spending time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “Nothing could slow her down,” said Deloris’ husband, Wallace.
That changed one day in April when Deloris came home from work experiencing abdominal pain. She went to the hospital where she was treated for colitis and discharged. When her pain worsened, Wallace took Deloris to UF Health Shands Hospital where a CT scan of her abdomen showed a number of issues that were causing her symptoms. A thorough exam by cardiology showed that Deloris was experiencing a type of myocardial infarction, or heart attack. Deloris was taken into exploratory surgery and ended up undergoing an abdominal colectomy, or the removal of the large intestine.
Unfortunately, Deloris did not improve after surgery; instead, she was found to have a small brain bleed as well as blood clots in her legs. After additional procedures, she then developed sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body's response to an infection. To complicate her condition further, Deloris began experiencing gastroparesis, a condition that affects the stomach muscles and prevents proper stomach emptying, and had to receive a feeding tube for nourishment.
Deloris was finally stable enough to transfer to UF Health Rehab Hospital in early June, but had no recollection of any part of her illness or prior hospitalization. Upon admission, she needed total assistance for all mobility and activities of daily living. Deloris was exhausted by her months-long illness and hospital stay and had no motivation to begin her road to recovery.
Once Deloris met her care team, including her physical therapist, speech-language pathologist and occupational therapist, her mindset began to change and she became focused on getting her mobility and independence back. “They just loved me,” Deloris said of her care team. “They never treated me like a disabled person. It completely changed my outlook on recovery. They encouraged me and made me do more until I was better.”
Deloris’ physical therapy sessions included teaching her how to stand, walk with a walker and improve her balance. In occupational therapy, she learned how to use her right hand to feed and bathe herself. Deloris particularly enjoyed the fine motor skills group, where she worked on using her hands by making banana pudding and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Her speech-language pathologist said, “I noticed that Deloris had really turned a corner when she started advocating for herself and asking for what she needed. She even asked me how to continue receiving services once she left UF Health Rehab Hospital.”
Deloris’ family was involved in her recovery as well, with her husband and son participating in the care partner education program that helps provide caregivers with hands-on training on how to care for their loved one after discharge. The training made Deloris and her family more confident that they could handle her needs after she returned home.
Deloris’ occupational therapist, noted that her recovery was nothing short of remarkable. “When Deloris first got here, she couldn’t recall where she was, why she was here or anything she had been through. She had to receive sponge baths in bed and needed two people to transfer (move from one surface to another). By the time she was ready for discharge, Deloris was taking full showers with minimal help and was able to stand, walk and transfer with the help of one person. She did amazing! She really showed her spunk and spirit, which only helped progress her recovery. I’m so proud of her!”
Deloris is excited to continue her rehabilitation so that she can walk independently again. She said that her journey has reminded her that she has a good heart and that she “can love people and respond well to love.”