Gail's story

Gail in red sweater standing with a walker.

Gail Chesser, 70, was born and raised in Loveland, Ohio. Although her husband Jack’s career kept them on the move for years, they ended up back in her hometown. Married for 45 years, Gail and Jack have four children, 12 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Gail, now retired, previously worked in a factory and various churches. She and Jack also served in a ministry together, even going to India twice on mission trips.

One day in January, Gail experienced sudden pain in her back and was unable to move her legs. Jack was at work, so she crawled for more than two and a half hours trying to find something she could pull herself up on. She finally was able to reach her phone and called 911. An ambulance took Gail to a local hospital where they performed bloodwork, x-rays, CT scans and an MRI trying to find the cause of her symptoms. She was diagnosed with an infection and started on IV antibiotics. Unfortunately, the medication caused side effects that left her bedridden. After a week, Gail started to stabilize and was ready to continue her recovery at TriHealth Rehabilitation Hospital.

Upon admission, Gail was unable to walk or perform daily living activities on her own. As someone who deeply valued her independence, she found it hard to rely on others to assist with basic tasks. Her goal was to be able to walk again and return home.

In physical therapy, Gail initially worked on sitting and standing balance. The therapy team had her stand in between the parallel bars for support, slowly increasing the length of time she was able to stand. They also helped Gail work on strengthening her upper and lower body by doing multiple exercises and using a leg and arm bike. As Gail’s strength increased, she was able to walk 10 feet using the parallel bars, eventually progressing to a rolling walker to go further distances.

In occupational therapy, Gail focused on safely moving from her bed to a wheelchair. Therapists used a special board to assist with transfers, allowing Gail the opportunity to be more mobile with greater ease. They also worked on helping her become more independent with daily self-care tasks like bathing and dressing by introducing adaptive equipment, such as a sock aide and reacher. As Gail continued to progress, her therapists had her cooking, managing medications, doing housework and laundry. “I got to practice doing household tasks like cooking,” said Gail. “I made a grilled cheese sandwich.”

Jack participated in family education and training to help prepare for Gail’s return home. The care team even made recommendations on medical equipment he could purchase, such as a shower seat to allow Gail to be as independent as possible.

Gail expressed how much support she felt from so many different people during her time at TriHealth Rehabilitation Hospital. “It has been easy to work with the therapists because I feel like we have been friends forever,” Gail said.  She was also grateful for her husband’s support and encouragement, even when he was unable to visit due to COVID-19 visitation restrictions. “He sent me flowers on Valentine’s day which was a pleasant surprise.” Gail also received support and comfort from her sister, sharing, “My sister and I are very close and we really missed each other. Two weeks is a long time to be away from people you love.”

Gail’s Bible study group also sent her an encouraging card full of well wishes. All of this was just the motivation she needed to return home as soon as possible.

Upon discharge, Gail left the hospital walking with a rolling walker and fully independent for self-care tasks. She was most excited to be getting back to her family and doing the things she loves like taking care of her home, eating Mexican and Japanese food, watching movies, reading and playing card and board games.