David's story

David Liggon stands and smiles after rehabilitation.

David Liggon enjoys life’s simple pleasures, especially spending time with family and friends, shopping with his mom and playing with his nieces. However, those carefree days were threatened when he developed increasing shortness of breath and was subsequently admitted to Riverside Walter Reed Hospital. There, the 41-year-old was diagnosed with pneumonia and severe sepsis, a life threatening medical emergency due to the body’s extreme response to an infection. He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and when his breathing quickly declined, he was put on a ventilator.

Doctors determined David’s condition required a higher level of care and transferred him to Riverside Regional Medical Center. There, he went into surgery where doctors inserted a feeding tube and tracheostomy – an artificial airway in the front of his neck, to support his breathing. David spent the next three and a half weeks in ICU while his doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists worked together to help his body recover from illness. Following a course of antibiotics, he was clear of infection.

After David stabilized, he transferred to Select Specialty Hospital Hampton Roads to continue his recovery. On admission, he was very weak and unable to breathe on his own, speak or get out bed. The physician-led team of nurses and therapists at SSH Hampton Roads created a goal for David to liberate him from the ventilator, talk, walk and eat again.

In physical therapy, David worked on transferring out of the bed, and began standing trials with maximal assistance and support. With occupational therapy, he did upper body lifts and reaching exercises to increase his strength. During his stay at Select Specialty Hospital Hampton Roads, David achieved the goal of breathing on his own without the support of a machine, and his tracheostomy and feeding tube were removed. He worked with speech therapy to determine his tolerance for various foods. Staff and family celebrated David’s birthday during his stay with a bedside party.

After four weeks in the critical illness recovery hospital, David was ready for even more intensive therapy and his family choose Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital to continue his recovery journey with the goal of returning home to his family.

Upon admission to Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital, David was still weak. Initially, two people had to help him out of bed, and he relied on a wheelchair with the staff pushing him. He required moderate assistance to bathe and dress himself and he was still eating soft foods.

David’s team developed a plan that keyed in on a few areas: walking, activities of daily living, and his swallowing and speech capabilities.

Physical therapy focused on helping him walk. To do this, they led David through an array of therapeutic exercises such as tossing balls into a bucket while standing to help with balance; stair climbing to help build strength in his legs; and functional tasks such as getting in and out of bed and a simulated car which improved David’s endurance, balance, safety awareness and independence.

Meantime, occupational therapy worked with David on completing everyday tasks such as getting in and out of the tub using a transfer bench, getting on and off the toilet, brushing his hair and teeth, bathing and dressing. To work on cognition, vision, and balance, David engaged in matching puzzles while standing and matched shapes on a peg board.

In speech therapy, David was directed on swallowing exercises to strengthen his throat muscles throat. He also worked on his voice intensity by doing diaphragm breathing exercises and gradually increasing the duration of his speech. He progressed from using single words to short phrases and later, full sentences. After a week of therapy, he was able to return to his normal diet and his speech had greatly improved, allowing him to speak more audibly and engage others in conversation.

David’s mother played an ever-present role in his rehabilitation and participated in the hospital’s Care Partner Program. She was encouraged by his improvement saying, “I honestly was not sure David would ever walk again. God answered my prayers, and through his therapy team, I got my baby back.”

After two weeks of intense rehabilitation, David was walking with a walker and supervision, and ready to return home to his family. He looks forward to getting back to his favorite activities—shopping, playing video games, dining in restaurants and spending time with his nieces. He will continue to build his strength and skills through home health care.

About their experience, Gloria shared: “I was tremendously satisfied with his care throughout this journey—from the doctors to the nurses to the therapists. I am overjoyed with his recovery and so happy he is home.”