Mequisha's story

Mequisha Collier with her therapist.

Accustomed to an active lifestyle, 37-year old Mequisha Collier found herself struggling with persistent pain in her back and an unexplained progressive decline in her ability to stand or walk. After several visits to the Emergency Department without a definitive diagnosis, an MRI test on a subsequent visit showed an infection in her skull near her spine, known as an epidural abscess.

Mequisha was immediately scheduled for back surgery to clear the infection and given intravenous antibiotics for another infection in her bloodstream. Following surgery and a course of antibiotics, Mequisha continued to struggle with mobility and self-care tasks. Her medical team at Riverside Regional Medical Center recommended more intense inpatient rehabilitation.

For that, Mequisha chose Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital. Upon arrival, she needed two people to help her in and out of the bed. She was almost fully dependent on the care team for self-care tasks such as bathing, dressing and grooming. Mequisha recalled her mental and physical state at the time: “I was crying every day, because I knew these were things I used to be able to do. I felt like a baby, I had no upper body strength.”

The care team developed a plan to help Mequisha return to independence.

Physical therapy (PT) worked with Mequisha on balance and transfers and instructed her on using a power wheelchair to practice and maximize her mobility – giving her a bit more independence. The team also helped Mequisha strengthen her core and ability to handle functions like transfers via a slide board into her chair and standing up to 20 minutes in a support frame to maximize her independence and safety at discharge.

In addition, they worked on endurance, having Mequisha use a standing frame enabling her to build her leg strength and stand for longer periods of time.  Following that, the team moved Mequisha to the Sci fit - a recumbent bike - to build her endurance, muscle tone in her legs and overall strength.

PT taught her to navigate her power wheelchair by setting up mock obstacles.  They conducted outside therapy sessions, challenging her on different types of surfaces. 
Occupational therapy (OT) worked on core strengthening tasks such as reaching exercises with both arms. They also had Mequisha work out with free weights and therapy bands to improve her sitting balance. That would allow Mequisha to handle regular activities such as eating, bathing and dressing.

Although her limitations were challenging, Mequisha’s spirits were bolstered by the gains she was making and the support of the entire staff at Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital. “Everyone here wiped my tears, brought me tissues and encouraged me. I thought, ‘Are these people for real?’ These people are my guardian angels, they saved my life when I thought my life was over.”

After six weeks of intensive therapy, Mequisha could confidently use her power wheelchair independently indoors and outdoors, transfer from it with minimal assistance, and tolerate 20 minutes in the standing frame. She was also able to independently feed, groom and dress herself.

Meantime, case management helped Mequisha with home preparations given she would have a new way of living after discharge. They ensured she had a loaner power wheelchair to return home with while her new chair was in transit. They also scheduled her initial home health nursing and therapy visit and, through the hospital’s Care Partner Program, trained her immediate family and cousins on how to best help her at home.

Mequisha greatly appreciated her entire care team at Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital, sharing: “They fought for me, they knew I had something in me that I couldn’t see yet. Now I am running with the baton they passed to me. The path is not ending, this is just my beginning."

Renewed in hope, Mequisha plans to continue gaining strength through home health care.