Renee's Story

Renee Milliorn in aquatic therapy


The COVID-19 pandemic heightened our vigilance toward every cough, sneeze, sniffle and tickle in our throats. Renee Milliorn, an accountant, wife and mother of two, experienced this first-hand when she developed a cough, followed by shortness of breath, fever and weakness. Alarmed by her symptoms, Renee promptly sought medical attention from her primary care provider, only to receive disheartening news.

Renee was diagnosed with COVID-19 and double pneumonia. Once at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Waxahachie, her ability to breathe independently faltered. Doctors inserted a breathing tube that remained in place for two weeks in order to provide adequate oxygen.

After a month in the hospital, Renee was unable to move on her own. “I was unable to feed myself, my arms were so weak that I couldn’t lift or bend them to reach my face,” she recalled. She was unable to sit up, stand or perform any self-care activities on her own. She was also having difficulty communicating, remembering things and eating. Renee would need expert therapy treatment to regain her independence.

For her rehabilitation, Renee chose Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) - Dallas, given her family's positive prior experiences with the hospital. Renee’s sister had gone through the program in the past and her family had liked the care so, “Baylor was an easy and obvious choice,” she said. At BSWIR - Dallas, the care team evaluated Renee and devised a treatment plan focusing on her specific goals - the desire to go use the bathroom unassisted and walk independently, with or without a walker.

While these goals were within reach, it required significant effort and dedication. Fortunately, Renee was never alone during her time at BSWIR - Dallas. Her husband, Dan, offered support, actively participating in her training. "Dan was always positive, uplifting and encouraged by my continued progress,” she said. “It made me want to work harder.”

With the support of her family and her own determination to reclaim her independence, Renee embraced therapy. Physical therapy centered on strengthening her muscles – those necessary for mobility. Renee diligently practiced using various mobility devices and navigating uneven surfaces outdoors. Additionally, her occupational therapist employed electrical stimulation to help Renee regain control and strength in her arms. In aquatic therapy, she was excited to practice walking as she strengthened her muscles in a low-impact setting. She recalled, "Love the pool. I smiled the entire time of my first pool session.”

Renee's perseverance led to tangible progress. Reflecting on her journey, she recalled an emotional moment when she first walked with a walker. "I remember crying. I looked around, and at least seven more people were crying with me. Later, I called my husband to tell him I walked, and we cried again," she recalled.

With continued determination, Renee persuaded her therapist to allow her to transfer from the bed to a wheelchair, and eventually to the commode. "Now I can just walk to it with my walker," she said. Renee’s achievements impressed her therapists, who initially considered a power wheelchair for her due to her weakness. But Renee's preference was to walk with a walker, only committing to using a manual wheelchair if needed. Her dedication paid off, leading her to cancel the wheelchair order three weeks later.

As Renee’s strength and independence returned, she and her husband began making travel plans. Yet, she remained resolute in her commitment to continue therapy and recovery on an outpatient basis. "Don't give up, keep working hard and prayers do get answered," she offers as a message to others facing similar challenges.

Reflecting on the transformative journey she had undergone, Renee expressed gratitude for the compassionate and supportive staff at BSWIR - Dallas. Their constant encouragement, even beyond direct interactions, created a nurturing environment that lifted her spirits.

"When I came here, I was essentially a quadriplegic, I couldn't do anything by myself. Going from that to walking on my own is unimaginable," Renee said. “The staff here has been extremely supportive and positive. My therapists, nurses and techs, even if they were not working with me directly, they would come in and say words of encouragement. That really supports you and lifts you up.”