For more than 16 years, Linda Thomas has worked as the office manager at her church and is a devoted member of the congregation. It was, in many ways, her home away from home – until the coronavirus struck Texas.
As shelter-in-place orders went into effect in March, Linda began feeling a little off. She had a slight fever, but didn’t think anything of it until it began to rise. She tried to schedule a doctor’s appointment, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, was told to go to the emergency room.
The last thing Linda remembers is having her temperature screened and being asked whether she consented to ventilator placement, if necessary.
In the triage area, Linda went into respiratory failure. She tested positive for the coronavirus and was placed on a ventilator. She battled the disease for more than 3 weeks in the ICU with intubation before her condition began to improve. Doctors were able to liberate her from the ventilator, but she remained significantly deconditioned, unable to walk, speak or think clearly. They recommended she go to Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation – Frisco to begin the long road back.
She arrived in an agitated state, but slowly, as her mental fog lifted, her initial struggles gave way to fierce determination. She focused on her goals of returning home, resuming church activities and living an independent life.
A physician-led team including physical, occupational and speech therapists, as well as rehabilitation nurses and other support staff, helped Linda overcome her viral fight. She worked with her physical therapists to recondition her body, increase endurance and relearn to walk. Occupational therapists provided Linda with the skills and strategies to perform everyday tasks. She recalled that her first shower at BSWIR-Frisco looked more like “a wrestling match with the occupational therapists.” But with practice and plenty of patience, she was able to shower and dress without assistance. Linda also worked with her speech therapists to improve memory and critical thinking skills through a range of cognitive exercises.
“There were lots of small moments along the way, lifting my leg on my own, standing up,” Linda said. “I was so down and saw others around me doing things I never thought possible again. But here I am sitting up, walking and talking. All things are possible if you work at it and believe you can do it. Every little thing helped. Everyone helped.”
Through this journey, Linda learned how resilient and determined she can be. What’s more, she said, “it’s important not to sweat the small stuff …because life can change in an instant.”