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"What Comes Next?"

Inpatient medical rehabilitation can transform your life — helping your strength, skills and independence, getting you home sooner, and helping you return to work, school or leisure activities you love. You'll benefit from the expert care, innovative treatment and advanced technologies provided by a multidisciplinary team of rehabilitation specialists.

Led by a physiatrist, a board-certified physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, your team may include rehabilitation nurses, physical, occupational, cognitive and respiratory therapists; speech language pathologists; psychologists and neuropsychologists; dietitians; pharmacists; prosthetists; orthotists; recreation therapists; social workers/case managers; and other clinical and support staff. Together, they will tailor treatment to your needs, goals and hopes for the future.

You and your family may find yourselves asking the daunting question of “What comes next?” 

The patients below chose inpatient medical rehabilitation as the next step in their recovery journeys. Read their stories and learn about the treatment and encouragement they received, their courage and determination, their challenges and their triumphs.

Are you an AMRPA member interested in submitting a story? Visit our submissions page to learn more.


Small Steps and Big Strides

“Something is wrong.”

That’s what 57-year-old Sheila Gaul thought to herself when her extremities started going numb after recovering from COVID just a few days earlier.

Mother of four, grandmother of five and wife to a doctor, Sheila was all set to go back to work as a nurse after her fever had finally subsided. When she entered the clinic the next day, however, she felt an unusual numbness in all ten of her fingertips that soon spread to her hands and toes. Shortly after, she experienced a sharp tightness in her chest, which led to her being admitted to Mosaic Life Care in Saint Joseph, Missouri, less than half an hour from her hometown of Troy, Kansas.

“Something is wrong.”

What happened after was something she never expected.

She was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a serious autoimmune disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack its nerves and a documented, but very rare, post-COVID complication.

“I ended up in the ICU and was in the hospital for almost a month. The ICU was quite an event. I ended up having to be intubated. They tried a couple times to take the [endotracheal] tube out, but I just couldn’t breathe, and I came to find out my vocal cords were swollen shut,” said Sheila.

She was intubated three times after failing to breathe on her own, and the last one resulted in a code blue (medical emergency). Due to the length of time she was on a ventilator, she eventually needed to get a trach

Our Story - Sheila Gaul (Tall-Inline) 3“When I got to Madonna, I still required a lot of care,” she said. “My upper body strength was getting better, but I just had no lower body strength. I couldn't transfer (move from one flat surface to another). I ‎couldn't do much of anything.”

The day Sheila arrived at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, she set a main goal for herself – to walk without a walker by the time she got home.

Her expert inpatient medical rehabilitation care team got started immediately to make that goal a reality, first utilizing a Hoyer Lift to transfer her, then – once she got stronger – employing a Lokomat to allow her to move again.

“I felt like I could have run a marathon. I was so excited to be moving like I was walking!”

Soon after, Sheila was walking with a walker, and her occupational therapist (OT) gave her a new challenge: practice grocery shopping by filling and emptying a cart.

Sheila did that and more.

“I felt like I could have run a marathon. I was so excited to be moving like I was walking!”

While her OT was wiping down the cart, as part of the hospital’s COVID sanitization protocols, she walked unassisted back to her walker. Later in the day, she excitedly told her physical therapist about her achievement that morning, and she tried it again.

“We went into the hallway where there was a handrail, and we walked the whole long hallway. I was just like, ‘I guess we are going to get rid of that walker!’”

Reflecting on her time spent at Madonna and the constant support she received from her care team, Sheila said, “If you make the littlest improvement, they are there to tell you how great you’ve done, and if you make ‎big strides, they’re just so excited – just as excited as I am for me.”

“I know I need strengthening and have things to work on in outpatient therapy, but all the things they have done to help me be confident in doing things safely have been amazing.”

While there were times in the ICU that Sheila believed she would not survive and moments when she felt like giving up, she told herself, “Don’t cry. You don’t have the energy to cry.”

Our Story - Sheila Gaul (Wide) 2

Redirecting that energy to focus on getting better, regaining strength and moving along on her journey to recovery worked, and by the time she was ready to go back home, she met her goal that she set for herself on day one of her inpatient admission.

She walked out of Madonna unassisted.

And given what she has been through since contracting COVID, Sheila shared this message in an effort to help others avoid what happened to her: “I just hope that this changes some people’s minds because I was healthy. I don’t have any health issues that would have made me a high-risk person. And out of all the people I know in the medical field who have gotten COVID, I don’t know anybody else who has gotten Guillain-Barre. . . I am just hoping that a lot of people learn from what happened to me, and they get their vaccine and wear their mask.”

Learn more about Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals and the inpatient medical rehabilitation care services they provide.

Are you an AMRPA member interested in submitting a story? Visit our submissions page to learn more.

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