Shonna Shumaker’s story

Shonna holding a small hand-held exercise dumbell  to her shoulder.

It was New Year’s Eve when stay-at-home mom Shonna Shumaker woke up with an unusual pain in her leg. Shonna had just moved from the Midwest to Florida and recently gotten engaged. She was always busy with her kids, going on adventures in the car to see what new things they might discover.

Concerned about the leg pain, Shonna went to her local hospital. After running some tests, doctors said that they could not find anything wrong with her, so she returned home and hoped the pain would subside. A few days later, Shonna found herself at another local hospital, as she was experiencing swelling in her foot and vomiting. But much like her first trip to the hospital, doctors did not find anything obviously wrong with Shonna, even after running blood work and doing X-rays.

When her condition continued to worsen, Shonna returned to the first hospital and was finally diagnosed with cellulitis, a bacterial infection of the skin. She was given antibiotics and sent home, but over the next few days, Shonna continued vomiting and was in pain. At this point, she decided to go to UF Health Shands Hospital for another opinion, as she knew that something was not right with her body.

Doctors quickly determined that Shonna had an infection in her leg and went into surgery the same day to investigate what was going on. During surgery, it was discovered that Shonna had a serious flesh-eating bacterial infection. For the two days following the surgery, Shonna underwent debridement, or the removal of dead, damaged or infected tissue, to improve the healing potential of the remaining healthy tissue. She then had another surgery to inspect the site of the infection to make sure that everything potentially infectious had been removed.

Shonna remained hospitalized for nearly a month, undergoing three blood transfusions and receiving a skin graft. Shonna’s ordeal and multiple procedures had left her extremely weak; she was unable to stand or pivot and her arms had lost a lot of strength. When it was time to be discharged, Shonna was transferred to UF Health Rehab Hospital for therapy with the main goal of regaining her independence, particularly in doing her own personal care.

Shonna admits that when she first arrived at UF Health Rehab Hospital, she dreaded physical therapy because she knew that “would really put her to work,” but acknowledges how much it helped her and how far she has come. “Therapy has been really good here. I’ve come a long way and I’m pleased, even after not being here very long.”

One of Shonna’s favorite therapy sessions was an arm workout with Wendy, an occupational therapist, where she and other patients would use weights and simulate rowing a boat while listening to music. Shonna said that those workouts helped her regain a lot of arm strength. She also worked hard in physical therapy and says that being able to finally stand for one minute was a huge milestone. 
Not only did Shonna have the support of her therapists, but her fiancé as well, who she says was “here every step of the way,” including attending all of her therapy appointments and regularly visiting her to play games and socialize. Shonna said that she’s confident her fiancé is going to be able to take care of her after discharge.

Shonna plans to continue outpatient therapy and looks forward to going home and seeing her kids and puppy. She says that her experience at UF Health Rehab Hospital was excellent, and that she would “recommend it to everyone because the team here is great.” When asked what lessons she learned throughout her ordeal, Shonna said that she “learned that I am strong and strong-willed. I now have more confidence in myself.” Her advice to anyone who’s going through rehabilitation and recovery is “to stay strong and just take it day by day."