Belinda Rojas loves spending time with her family. The 53-year-old mother and grandmother, whose favorite holiday is Christmas, never imagined she might not be there to celebrate.
The pandemic limited family time to some extent, but she had no idea she was about to be nearly cut off from them completely. What started with allergies was about to become the most challenging fight of Belinda’s life.
It was late November, when Belinda’s husband tested positive for COVID-19, she decided to get tested, especially since she was having what she thought were usual allergy symptoms. Belinda tested positive and within several hours was having difficulty breathing. She went to the hospital, but was discharged and told to monitor her oxygen levels at home. They quickly dropped dangerously low to 80 percent (normal range is between 95-100 percent) and Belinda was rushed to the hospital. On December 1st, she was put on a ventilator and placed in a medically-induced coma.
After 15 days, Belinda emerged. While she had made progress in her fight against COVID, she had developed kidney failure while intubated and was put on dialysis. COVID-19 protocols prevented her visitation so she could only see her beloved family through FaceTime. Even then, she was too weak to hold her phone. Belinda recalled, “When I woke up, I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t move from my neck down. I was incredibly debilitated. I had no stamina, no energy and no endurance...and I was on 24/7 oxygen.”
By Christmas Eve, Belinda had stabilized enough to be transferred to a long-term care facility. At the same time, with certain restrictions lifted, Belinda was finally able to see her husband and daughter in-person. It was a Christmas gift she’ll never forget, and one that helped spark her recovery.
Belinda continued healing over the next few weeks and then spent a month in inpatient rehabilitation facility where she worked on reconditioning her body and regaining as much strength as possible. She admits that at this point, after being in three different hospitals in four months, she was “rehab-weary.” However, her daughter convinced her to continue her treatment in the Day Neuro Program at Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Fort Worth.
“I was a little scared before I started because I had gone through so much that I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think I would be doing half as good as I am if it wasn’t for Baylor,” recalled Belinda.
In the BSWIR Day Neuro Program Belinda focused on getting her life back. She wanted to be able to walk again, get back to work and most importantly, be able to do all the things she did as a mother and grandmother. Her Day Neuro therapists were ready to help her get there.
Belinda, who had been using a wheelchair, set her sights on walking independently. With consistent gait training exercises and the support of her therapists, she soon was able to take a few small steps. As her endurance and strength improved, so did her ability to walk on her own – a major milestone.
Occupational therapy centered on helping Belinda relearn how to safely perform day-to-day activities, like brushing her hair, showering, and cooking, that had become nearly impossible for her. Guided by her therapists, she’s now capable of doing all those things on her own.
Since completing the Day Neuro Program, Belinda has continued to progress and reach even more of her goals, including returning to work. She was even able to dance at her nephew’s wedding! Although her six-month COVID journey was difficult, Belinda is grateful for her outcome and noted that another positive was how this experience has strengthened her family and marriage.