‘An amazing journey’
After a long battle with COVID-19, Cindy Leister turned to the UPMC Western Maryland Comprehensive Inpatient Rehab Unit to help prepare her to go home
Simply put, Cindy Leister of Hyndman wanted to go home.
After battling COVID-19 in the hospital for three weeks (including five days on a ventilator), her instinct to return to her husband, children, church family and friends was pushing her to get better and get discharged.
Though she was out of the woods in terms of her COVID-19 fight, an important part of Cindy’s journey to independence needed to take place before she could safely return home. Several caregivers suggested Cindy consider entering the Comprehensive Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, which is housed on the sixth floor of the main hospital at UPMC Western Maryland.
The CIRU consists of 13 private patient rooms, a bright dining room with views of the mountains, a spacious therapy gym and a transitional apartment for practicing the tasks and skills needed to succeed in life after rehab. Patients can wear their own clothes from home and receive approximately three hours of daily therapy, six days per week.
The program is dedicated to providing comprehensive rehabilitative services for patients with physical, functional thinking, swallowing and/or communication impairments. Through a team approach, sound rehabilitative therapy is provided to effect positive change in functional ability, independence, and self-reliance across a variety of environments, while protecting and promoting the rights of the patients served.
“From beginning to end, it has been an amazing journey,” Cindy said after completing her rehab program and shortly before heading home. “The experience I have had here has been all positive. I don’t have anything but positive things to say about the care I’ve been given.” That care encompassed several different service lines, though Cindy spent the most time on 7 South in the COVID-19 unit and then five days in the rehab program as she reconditioned herself to be able to do the tasks she would need to do back home.
Cindy’s program centered on getting herself familiarized with doing basic tasks while being hooked up to an oxygen tank. Her days in the CIRU consisted of working with staff to practice things like getting dressed, executing kitchen skills, showering and making the bed without tripping over the cord or knocking over her tank. The tank can be cumbersome for people who have never had to use one before. During her stay, Cindy made a list of goals and then worked to complete them.
“From top to bottom, the care I received every step of the way was amazing. Everyone was super nice. They made me feel like I was the only person in this hospital. That helped so much.”
Her time in the CIRU allowed Cindy to regain the confidence she lost during her COVID-19 battle. “I am so thankful I did this. Going home right away would have been more challenging, and I’d be a lot slower than I am now. I am so glad I was able to do this program. I would recommend it to anyone. It’s a good step to take.”
As for what the best part about going home would be, Cindy’s answer was not a complicated one.
“I just want to be home. Period. I have a big family, and in 47 years I’ve never been apart from my husband for more than four days.”
As for the perspective she gained during her illness and rehab, Cindy knows she is one of the lucky ones. “My life has changed forever,” she said. “I’ve always had a positive attitude, but I will never take anything for granted again.”