Left to right: Julie Scott, physical therapist assistant; Shelley Mitchell, occupational therapist; Judith Owens; Cayce Weekley, physical therapist; Ocellia Whatley, occupational therapist assistant; and Kimberly Fortney, speech therapist

Breathing is something most of us take for granted.


As we breathe in, we take in oxygen to enrich our body and keep it functioning, and as we breathe out, we expel carbon dioxide.


Judith Owens recently had trouble with this process. She arrived at Life Care Center of Red Bank in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on March 5, 2018, with acute respiratory failure and excess amounts of carbon dioxide in her body. The episode had caused her to become weak and struggle with cognition.


“I couldn’t recall anything,” Owens remembered. “I couldn’t even hold a fork to feed myself. I couldn’t walk or get out of bed.”


Speech, occupational and physical therapists worked with Owens to help her regain her strength and independence.


“I started out using a sliding board for transfers with staff,” said Owens. “It was a challenge, but therapy helped me get to the point of being able to transfer and walk with a rollator.”


“When she first came, she was bedbound with very limited intention to get out of bed,” said Jamie Wallis, director of rehab services. “However, her goals changed as she progressed through therapy, and she became very motivated to return home.”


Physical therapists addressed the mobility side of Owens’ recovery, using electrical stimulation and ultrasound to help her get moving again, as well as the LiteGait harness system to allow her to practice her gait without risk of falling and the Biodex machine to help her work on balance.


Occupational therapists focused on Owens’ ability to take care of herself in daily tasks like grooming, bathing, getting dressed and managing her medications. They taught her to use adaptive equipment to make these tasks easier. For example, a reacher helped her not have to bend over so far, and a sock aid helped her with dressing.


Speech therapy helped Owens regain her cognitive and speech function, as well as how to swallow normally again. Therapists improved her understanding and use of language so she could have higher-level conversations with her peers.


“Now I am able to take care of myself because of you all,” Owens shared.


Owens returned home fully independent on May 17.