Zoila's Story

Zoila Marroquin in the kitchen

Medically Complex

Following back surgery, Zoila Marroquin, 65, began experiencing intense pain in her shoulder blade. On the insistence of her husband, they visited the local emergency room where doctors discovered Zoila had an issue with one of her heart valves. She was transferred to Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas, for open heart surgery. “Unfortunately,” she said, “things got complicated and all my organs stopped working, along with my heart, for over an hour.”

Fortunately, her heart began beating on its own again. “The surgeon told me that I was a mystery,” said Zoila. “I told him that I’m a miracle.” However, the treatment to keep her alive led to the loss of circulation in parts of her hands and feet and doctors were forced to remove a third of her right foot, all the toes on her left foot, most of her right hand and part of the fingers on her left hand. Her condition had also required the placement of a tracheostomy tube for breathing support and a PEG feeding tube for nutrition.

Now medically stable but incredibly weakened, Zoila needed specialized care to continue her healing journey and adapt to limb loss.  For that, she was transferred to Select Specialty Hospital – Dallas Plano. When she arrived, Zoila was unable to eat, breathe or walk on her own. A physician-led, interdisciplinary care team developed a personalized treatment plan to help Zoila regain some of her lost independence.

They began with respiratory therapy. Working with her therapist, Zoila participated in breathing trials that required her to spend time breathing without support from the ventilator.  Over time, these periods off the machine increased until she was able to breathe on her own. Once Zoila was off the ventilator, her speech-language pathologist fitted her trach tube with a Passy Muir valve, a special attachment that allows a patient to use their own voice to speak. “Therapy kept me going with making little by little progress steps,” Zoila recalled.

Zoila's recovery was marked by several milestones. After spending time working with her physical and occupational therapists to practice sitting at the edge of her bed and moving her arms and legs, a key turning point in her journey occurred when she was finally able to stand and take a few steps with support.

Her family, especially her husband, provided encouragement throughout her journey. "He stayed at my bedside from day one," she said. Her faith and church community also played a significant role in her recovery.

Upon discharging from Select Specialty Hospital, Zoila looked forward to returning to her community and church activities. Needing a bit more time to rebuild strength and adaptation skills for active daily living, she headed to Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Frisco before going home. Before leaving, Zoila said, “The rehab team was loving, joking, positive and their encouraging attitude helped me recover and regain function.  I had a wonderful experience.”

 Zoila entered BSWIR – Frisco ready to work and with a positive attitude. During her intake evaluation, Zoila could not stand up from her bed without assistance or walk on her own due to pain. Working with a physical therapist, she participated in muscle strengthening exercises like leg lifts, seated marching and isometric contractions. Assisted gait training coupled with core balance exercises helped her become steadier on her feet. In occupational therapy, Zoila learned and practiced modified strategies that would help her complete day to day tasks despite her amputations. This included learning to handle flatware and cooking utensils and getting dressed.

During her time at BSWIR, Zoila’s husband was, once again, always at her side and supportive. Her care team noted that they were both a pleasure to work with and that Zoila was an inspiration to not only the other patients but the staff as well.

After 12 days at BSWIR – Frisco, Zoila was able to stand and pivot with little to no help, walk short distances and get into and out of a car with with only minimal assistance. She was ready to discharge home where she would participate in a home health program.

Regular sessions with physical and occupational therapists in her home helped Zoila continue to strengthen her body and relearn to take care of herself. As part of her occupation therapy, Zoila used modified tools like elastic wristbands to help her hold utensils for securing and cutting food. She practiced writing with her non-dominant hand, tying her shoelaces one-handed and opening jars with the help of an electric opener. Zoila was even capable of return to crocheting by using a utensil cuff to hold her crocheting hook.

As her strength and independence grows, Zoila is now looking forward to participating in an outpatient program in order to continue her healing journey.

“Just because you lose parts of your body, it does not define you. Our strength and faith are forever and more important than the physical body,” she said.