Shelvin's story

A masked Shelvin wearing a white tee and black rimmed glasses

Virginia Beach native Shelvin Ford, 45, is a husband and father of two. He’s worked as a welder for 25 years and owns a mobile car detailing business.

One weekend, Shelvin attended a wedding. The next day, he began feeling ill and by Monday, he was experiencing several COVID-19 symptoms.

After receiving a positive test result for the virus, Shelvin was taken to the emergency room at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach. His condition declined quickly and he was transferred to Riverside Regional Medical Center, where he would spend the next 30 days fighting for his life.

Shelvin was placed on a ventilator and physicians had little hope for a full recovery. He fought valiantly and began to slowly improve. Once Shelvin stabilized, his family chose Select Specialty Hospital – Hampton Roads, which came highly recommended, for the next step in healing.

Alert but still very weak, Shelvin’s biggest goal was to return to independence. Relying on someone to help with every personal task, function and activity was not his style.

A physician-led team, including nurses and therapists, created a plan for success.

Over the course of three weeks, the care team at Select Specialty Hospital – Hampton Roads deployed an individualized plan of mobility and light, resistance-focused exercises to rebuild stamina.

To prepare for his next recovery step – inpatient rehabilitation – Shelvin had to withstand up to three hours of occupational and physical therapy each day.  The Select Specialty Hospital team focused on energy conservation techniques, breathing exercises and physical therapy to rebuild core muscle groups.

The support of Shelvin’s family also played a huge role in the progress he made. His wife was by his side every day and having the chance to speak to his children by phone gave Shelvin the motivation to keep improving.

It had been over a month since Shelvin fell ill by the time he arrived at Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital to continue his recovery. His battle with COVID-19 and time spent on a ventilator left him weak and debilitated, but Shelvin was thankful to be alive and anxious to regain strength and endurance so he could get back to living his life and “not rely on anyone else to meet my needs.”

His physician-led team of nurses and physical, occupational and speech therapists created a plan to help Shelvin reach his goals of independence and returning home.

Speech therapists worked with Shelvin on swallowing exercises which helped him advance quickly to a regular diet. In physical therapy, Shelvin and his therapists focused on improving his endurance and balance.  He fondly recalled one of the best moments was when his physical therapist allowed him to “walk freely for a few minutes shortly after arriving at Riverside.”  Shelvin continued to practice his walking while also working on navigating stairs and increasing strength in his upper body. Although his battle with COVID-19 left him occasionally short of breath, Shelvin progressed quickly, and by the time of his discharge, he was able to walk 500 feet without assistance.

In occupational therapy, the focus was helping Shelvin transfer in and out of bed safely as well as completing personal care, including eating, dressing, bathing and using the bathroom as independently as possible. “My occupational and physical therapist were instrumental in my recovery,” Shelvin said. “They pushed me, encouraged me, motivated me and were very persistent."

A week after arriving at Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital and almost two months to the day after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Shelvin was ready to head home to his family. He shared his excitement to see his kids, be with family and sleep in his own bed.

Of his time at Select Specialty Hospital – Hampton Roads and Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital, Shelvin said, “My experience was excellent. I felt everyone really cared for me at both facilities. They run a tight ship.” He offers this advice to others who are facing rehabilitation after a serious illness: “Never give up, stay motivated and believe in yourself.”