Success Stories

Jeanette Fraser

Jeanette Fraser’s goal was to return home for her granddaughter’s first birthday.

Jeanette Fraser is a 55-year-old occupational health nurse. She enjoys working out and lifting weights, photography, and hiking. Most of all, Jeanette enjoys spending time with her family. She seemed to be a perfectly healthy individual.

One day at her job, Jeanette began throwing up and experienced radiating chest pain. She went to the hospital where procedures revealed a duodenal diverticulum. Major complications from the procedure ensued, including a bile/pancreatic duct injury, pancreatic fistula, and multiple intra-abdominal and abdominal wall abscesses.

Facing a challenging road to recovery, Jeanette came to Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital (NCLTAH). She chose NCLTAH because it was close to her home and her family could visit often.

Jeanette’s goal was to get home for her granddaughter’s first birthday. This was one of the main motivators for Jeanette during her recovery. The other motivation arrived from Australia. Jeanette’s daughter and two grandkids came from Australia and visited her daily.

While at NCLTAH, much of the staff made an impact on Jeanette. “The doctors were great at collaborating with my surgeon and neurologist,” she recalled. “The nursing staff was responsive. The case manager was awesome, making my experience flawless with appointments and discharge planning. The therapists helped me gain my strength and balance back so I could return home. They even let me choose my therapy activities, which made the experience better.”

Jeanette is excited to get back to her prior life — going out to dinner with her husband, getting back to work and driving. But most of all, it means spending time with her precious family. Proudly, Jeanette met her goal of returning home in time for her granddaughter’s first birthday!

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Francesca Van Sant

Complications from a noninvasive procedure led to an extended hospitalization for Francesca Van Sant.

Francesca Van Sant, 21, grew up in Ramstein-Miesnbach, Germany. She attended all German schools and had a passion for studying abroad. That brought her to the University of Colorado Boulder. At CU, Francesca majored in French, Chinese, and Geology. She was very active with a competitive rowing team at the school. Francesca also has a passion for hiking, camping, art, concerts, and attending hockey games.

After undergoing a noninvasive mitral valve repair, Francesca experienced complications. She suffered an anoxic brain injury, causing a prolonged hospitalization. Acute hypoxemic respiratory failure led to Francesca being placed on a ventilator and requiring a tracheostomy. Initially, Francesca was unresponsive.

Francesca’s parents, Jake and Lori Van Sant, came to be with her from Germany. They have been an active part of her healing process. At the recommendation of Francesca’s pulmonologist at Boulder Community Hospital, they chose Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital for her recovery.

They couldn’t be happier with the decision.

“Everyone was professional, and it definitely was a family-like atmosphere,” Lori stated. “All the staff would go above-and-beyond to make her comfortable.”

Francesca, who has made tremendous progress in her recovery, concurs.

“The nurses and therapists spent time talking to me and reassuring me of my recovery,” Francesca reflected. “Monica, the respiratory therapist, was always so positive and smiling. The power of a smile and words is huge.”

“The doctors, nurses, patient care technicians, my dog, and family have influenced my recovery,” she added.

Francesca discharged to Craig Hospital for further neurorehabilitation. She then discharged from their inpatient program and is now doing their outpatient program. Francesca is staying with her parents, who have been with her through this entire experience.

“This was a devastating condition but Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital saved her and helped her regain her function,” Lori said.

Francesca is excited and motivated to get back to her prior life. Her goals are to finish college and become a geologist. She would love to work for the United States Geological Survey or State Department.

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Christopher Lauck

A mixup with household chemicals sent Christopher Lauck into respiratory failure…and nearly killed him.

Mixing CLR with bleach nearly killed 32-year-old Christopher Lauck. After breathing in the fumes, the mine equipment operator from Gillette, WY went into respiratory failure.

Respiratory failure occurs when there isn’t enough oxygen passing from the lungs into the body’s bloodstream. This creates the potential to critically harm the body’s organs, like the heart and brain.

Christopher was rushed to a local hospital. Physicians immediately placed Christopher on a ventilator to help him breathe. After about a month at the hospital, he transferred to Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. Christopher was still on the ventilator when he arrived at NCLTAH.

“While the ventilator plays a critical, life-saving role, it was important to get Christopher removed from it as quickly and safely as possible to avoid complications,” said Dr. Gary Pearson. Dr. Pearson is the Medical Director at Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. “[Christopher] had received prolonged mechanical ventilation, which requires specialized medical assistance in being weaned off of it.”

At the hospital, an interdisciplinary team created a personalized plan of care. Christopher and his family members participated in the creation of that plan. The plan was tailored to his complex medical needs. The team used proven clinical practices, evidence-based research, and the latest technology to help remove him from the ventilator.

“The physicians and medical team were very thorough and provided excellent care,” Christopher says. “I felt good about the treatments and felt at home.”

Christopher liberated from the ventilator and transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. At NCRH, he participated in physical, occupational and speech therapy. Christopher also relearned how to perform daily activities. This included walking, eating and dressing — and his favorite, competitive shooting.

“My therapists found out I enjoyed competitive shooting. So during therapy, I began using a laser to shoot at targets,” Christopher recalled. “It was a really positive experience and helped me to see that I was going to be able to return to doing the things I enjoyed.”

Christopher returned home after his stay at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. He is back to work and has resumed competitive shooting and spending time with his friends.

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Mary Todd

A former patient, Mary Todd knew NCLTAH was the right place to recover from an exacerbation of her heart and lung conditions.

An emergency service dispatcher for 26 years, Mary Todd has been on disability since 2012. Mary suffers from severe pulmonary hypertension and chronic right-sided heart failure. Mary received those diagnoses 21 years ago, after diet pills prescribed by her physician destroyed her heart valve. Mary is passionate about traveling and spending time with her daughter, son, and husband. But a recent exacerbation of her illnesses made much of this difficult.

This exacerbation created many difficulties for Mary. She required an increase in oxygen needs and the use of a BiPap. Fluid built up in her lungs and extremities. As a result, Mary admitted to an acute care hospital in Cheyenne, WY, where she lives.

To recover, Mary chose to come to Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. A wound care patient at NCLTAH in 2015, Mary knew she’d be well taken care of. Many of the “wonderful, knowledgeable staff” that Mary recalled from her 2015 stay still worked at NCLTAH.

That’s not to say Mary wanted to be hospitalized at all.

“Initially, I was very depressed going to the hospital because of my medical condition deteriorating,” Mary recalled. “But every team member at the LTACH helped me make up my mind that I was going to fight for my life!”

Support would be a major factor in Mary’s recovery. “The nurses, RT, and therapists gave me the strength to work twice as hard! My case manager was such an encouragement in my healing process, and really pushed me to work harder to get home.” Mary’s family visited weekly. Their noting of her progress each week reinforced her determination.

After three weeks at NCLTAH, Mary spent the next three weeks rehabilitating. Then, much to Mary’s delight, she discharged home. “It’s great to be home, and also to be using less oxygen,” Mary noted. “I am enjoying going outside and living my life again.”

But Mary’s still motivated to achieve even more. “My goals are to get strong enough to go back to work, and maybe do some day trips with my family.”

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Dwight Carlson

Dwight Carlson surrounded by his loving family

Seventy-year-old Dwight Carlson feels he’s experienced “a lot of miracles” when it comes to his health. Dwight led an active lifestyle – skiing, hiking, working out and more – until sepsis, caused by a small tear in his esophagus, nearly killed him five years ago. His family was told that he had a one percent chance to live as he lay in a medically-induced coma with six of his organs failing.

But, it wasn’t his time.

After ten days in the coma, Dwight opened his eyes and saw his wife who told him that everything was going to be okay. “We may have a new life, but we will get through this together,” she told him. Dwight says those words made a bigger impact on him than anything else could have.

Dwight transferred to Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital (NCLTAH) for continued critical care. Four weeks later, he returned to a local acute hospital for another surgery, before returning back to the long-term acute care hospital.

When he arrived back at NCLTAH, Dwight expressed his relief. “It was so peaceful,” he said. “It was like I was home. I loved the nurses and they loved me. They were so attentive and ‘Johnny-on-the-spot’ for all my needs. I have a whole new appreciation for nurses and all they did for me. They literally carried me.”

The staff at NCLTAH lined up to applaud Dwight Carlson on his discharge day.

Dwight says the hospital’s medical director checked on him every morning, as well. “He was my encourager. My cheerleader,” he said. “He knew me.”

After much time, care, work, and determination – not to mention a positive attitude – Dwight claimed the one percent chance he had to survive. Nowadays, he can be found skiing, hiking, working out or working in his garden, among other things.

Dwight attributes a large part of his healing success to the care he received at Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. “My wife and I both feel very blessed that I was able to receive care in a place like this that was so close to home,” he said. “I had a really positive experience and was very fortunate to have received care there.”

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Daniel Morrison

Daniel and Debbie Morrison with their dog, Tucker and cat, Jack.

Prior to Daniel’s accident, he was in good health. For 26 years, Daniel worked as an electrical railroad technician with Union Pacific. He loves photography, trying new restaurants with his wife, Debbie, and traveling. He has four children and eight grandchildren.

On his way home from running errands one day, Daniel swerved to miss hitting a dog in the road. He wound up hitting another vehicle. Daniel suffered numerous injuries and complications from the accident. These included breaking both legs and feet and his sternum, requiring multiple surgeries. Daniel also suffered acute respiratory failure and required a ventilator.

After 26 days, Daniel transferred to Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital (NCLTAH). He and Debbie chose NCLTAH at the recommendation of Daniel’s brother. A firefighter in Thornton, CO, his brother heard about the hospital’s great patient outcomes. Debbie toured the facility before the transfer and knew it was the right choice. She loved how involved families were in their loved one’s care plan. But most influential was when the spouse of another patient told her it was the “best care ever.”

“I made my decision to have Daniel come right then and there,” Debbie stated.

Daniel’s experience lived up to expectations. “The nursing care was awesome,” he stated, “and the therapists were always so happy. [They] really pushed you to get home faster. The meals were so good, and I loved that I could bring my dog into the front lobby!”

Dr. Mitri, Daniel’s physician, particularly stood out to the Morrisons.

“Dr. Mitri was outstanding driving my plan of care,” Daniel stated. “When I went to the acute rehab, he would come visit me weekly!”

Daniel made great progress at the long-term acute care hospital. When the time came to discharge to a rehabilitation facility, the choice was easy. Daniel transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, which shares a campus with NCLTAH.

According to Daniel, two of his largest accomplishments was to stand again and then walk with a front-wheeled walker. His future goals including traveling again and returning to work.

“Putting the wheelchair in the garage and not having to use it again was one of the best feelings”

Thankful for the care they received at both hospitals, the Morrisons added, “We couldn’t have done it without you!”

 

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Terry Sykes

After suffering a major stroke, Terry Sykes’ doctors told his family he would likely never walk or talk again.

Terry Sykes’ motto is “I’m down, but I’m not out.” Terry has had to remind himself of this often since suffering a major stroke that required months of hospitalization.

However, this stroke wasn’t Terry’s first. Previously, Terry suffered a “minor” stroke, for which he underwent carotid endarterectomy. According to the American Heart Association, carotid endarterectomy is “surgery to remove fatty deposits (plaque) that are narrowing the arteries in your neck. These are called the carotid arteries. They supply blood and oxygen to your brain. If plaque and other fatty materials block an artery, it slows or blocks the blood flow, and you could have a stroke.”

Shortly after surgery, Terry suffered his second stroke. More severe, this stroke caused life-threatening swelling of his brain. The medical staff told his family it was unlikely Terry would ever walk or talk again.

But according to Terry, God had other plans. Terry’s wife, Cathy, chose for him to transfer to Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. At NCLTAH, Terry continued to work to wean off machines that assisted his breathing and heart rate. This is where Cathy found her hope and Terry found out he was a “medical miracle.”

Terry improved rapidly and transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital to begin intensive therapy. This therapy would help Terry relearn how to eat, talk and walk again. Participating in physical, occupational, and speech therapy challenged Terry. However, Cathy says, “he kept trying and never stopped.” Terry said his therapist at the hospital “never gave up on me”.

Determined to recover, Terry would often ask for additional therapy beyond what was required.

With Cathy as his “cheerleader,” Terry continued to fight. Every chance he got, Terry asked to do additional therapy beyond what was required. “It doesn’t come as fast you think,” he said. “Truly, if you do what the therapists tell you, you will get back on your feet.” And Terry did, walking out of the hospital to go home on his discharge day.

Terry continues to participate in outpatient therapy. He says that coming in for therapy “feels like coming home.” Terry is working towards returning to the back-breaking work of owning his own business. He hopes to be back hiking in the mountains and hunting. Cathy knows he will thanks to Terry’s determination, the amazing work of the hospital staff and the power of prayer.

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Donald Parker

The best moment at NCLTAH for Donald? When the CEO shook his hand and stated, “you’re a miracle man.”

Donald Parker is a 63-year-old, retired Vietnam-era veteran. Donald loved retired life, spending it golfing, fishing and taking care of his grandchildren. His favorite part of being a grandparent was babysitting his grandkids and taking them school.

One December day, Donald was found unconscious in his car. He had been headed to pick up his grandkids from school. Taken to an acute care hospital, Donald was diagnosed with a subarachnoid hemorrhage. A subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is a life-threatening type of stroke caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain.

Donald’s condition prevented him from making decisions while hospitalized. His daughter, Katie McElderry, is a case manager at Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. Knowing NCLTAH’s capabilities, Katie decided to transfer her father there. Katie noted that “NCLTAH has fantastic physicians, caring staff, and great outcomes!”

“The nurses were so patient and kind,” Donald noted, reflecting on his stay at Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. “Everyone had a good sense of humor in this difficult situation,” he added. While at NCLTAH, Donald even met a friend he used to work.

The best moment at NCLTAH for Donald? When the CEO shook his hand and stated, “you’re a miracle man.”

“He thrived at Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital,” Katie stated. “He progressed so quickly due to working with a knowledgeable team!”

Donald discharged to acute rehabilitation for a few weeks, then home with his daughter for a month. He now is back living alone and independent.

Donald states his definition of success is “being able to play golf again and getting back to life.” Donald is now able to watch his grandkids grow up and be there for his family. He truly is a miracle man!

 

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Lois Van Mark

After spending months in the hospital, Lois Van Mark came to NCLTAH for ventilator weaning.

Lois Van Mark was enjoying her new job as the State Executive Director of Farm Service Agency. The 62-year-old from Torrington, WY is the fourth generation operating her family’s no-till dry land wheat farm in southeast Goshen County. An art major in college, Lois enjoys painting, drawing and making crafts. But that was all about to be put on hold.

Lois hadn’t been feeling well for about a year when she admitted to the local hospital in Torrington for edema and worsening cellulitis. Worsening acute respiratory failure during her stay required a transfer to Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff, NE. Lois now required a ventilator, tracheostomy and feeding tube. For a three-month stretch, Lois doesn’t remember a thing.

That’s when Lois transferred to Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital. Her pulmonologist at Regional West Medical Center and her family felt NCLTAH could provide the best care for Lois.

Lois weaned from the ventilator while at NCLTAH. But the prolonged stretch of unconsciousness, paired with her time on a ventilator left Lois physically weak. Lois would need more rehabilitation to regain her strength. Her family chose to remain close and admit Lois to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital.

At NCRH, Lois learned how to stand and walk again. “The therapists were so encouraging, patient and always smiling,” Lois recalls. “My recovery was influenced by God, prayers, and family support. Dr. Pearson, Dr. Walker, the nurses and aides were all so helpful!”

“Both Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Care and Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital were wonderful experiences,” Lois adds.

Her rehabilitation complete, Lois discharged home using only a walker. “God has put me on this earth for a reason,” Lois states, “and I take every day as it comes.” Lois is excited to be back at her job and back to painting, drawing and crafts.

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Shelly Walter

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Shelly works as an RN in Loveland

Shelly Walter, 54, spent much of her free time enjoying the outdoors. She was an avid rock climber, skier, and travel enthusiast. When she wasn’t spending time outdoors or with her family, she worked as a registered nurse in Loveland, Colorado.

Over a few days, Shelly began experiencing fevers, followed by memory loss. She admitted to a local hospital. There, she received treatment for acute hypoxic respiratory failure and an influenza B infection. Shelly then transferred to Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Hospital for follow-up treatment.

During her stay, Shelly’s condition continued to escalate. She endured additional complications including toxic shock syndrome, acute cardiomyopathy, dysphagia, protein calorie malnutrition, and anemia.

“My illnesses were great, but my support was even greater,” Shelly says. “From the very beginning, the staff was positive, compassionate, and encouraging. They treated me like a family member. They got to know me on a personal level, figuring out how much I love the outdoors. And so they incorporated the outdoors into my therapy. Even on my difficult days, they knew how to make me smile and kept my spirits high.”

After a few weeks of treatment at NCLTAH, Shelly transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. “Even there, I was still valued as a family member,” Shelly says. “The dietitian and nutrition manager customized my nutrition plan to accommodate my vegetarian lifestyle. And with the rehabilitation, they focused on not just the physical aspects, but the emotional and mental aspects of it, as well.” Shelly discharged a week later, able to independently walk out of the facility.

After discharge, Shelly biked over 25 miles at her family’s annual camping trip

Shelly was able to make her family’s annual camping trip to Leadville, Colorado this year. While there, she biked more than 25 miles. “I believe that whatever life throws at you, you have to stay positive and enjoy every moment you can,” she says. “Thanks to my family and the rehabilitation I received, I am back doing the things I love with the people I love.”

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