Lyndel's Story

Lyndel wearing a safety helmet and working with therapist learn going up stairs in the therapy gym.

Wife and mother of six Lyndel Kelley, 35, could have never imagined that what was supposed to be a routine heart surgery would turn into a seven-month ordeal wherein she would be at home for less than 12 hours.

Lyndel was admitted to Flagstaff Medical Center for what should have been a straightforward mechanical replacement of the mitral and aortic valves of her heart. Unfortunately, after the surgery, she had trouble liberating from the ventilator. When she finally did, doctors found that Lyndel was suffering from decreased neurological awareness. Imaging at the hospital found that she had experienced a stroke, which required a craniotomy to relieve the swelling in her brain.

Once stable enough to be moved, Lyndel was transferred to Select Specialty Hospital – Phoenix. She had a tracheostomy, or an opening surgically created through the neck into the trachea (windpipe) to allow direct access to a breathing tube, as well as a feeding tube for nutrition. Lyndel was also suffering from pneumonia and respiratory failure. Over the next month, she continued to heal before being transferred to a skilled nursing facility where her tracheostomy was removed and she continued to make slow but steady progress toward recovery.

Three months post-surgery, Lyndel arrived at HonorHealth Rehabilitation Hospital for the next step in her journey. When she was admitted, Lyndel was still quite weak, requiring significant assistance to move in bed and transfer to her wheelchair and needed complete assistance to walk.

Her physician-led team of nurses and physical, occupational and speech therapists worked with Lyndel to create a plan that would help her regain her strength, endurance and independence.

Physical therapists worked with Lyndel on walking with support, first with a walker, then with a quad cane.  She also honed safely transferring from sitting to standing and exercises to help with range of motion, strength and coordination. Occupational therapists assisted Lyndel with on new ways to manage her personal care, including bathing and dressing. Lyndel was also struggling with swallowing and eating, so speech therapists coached her with different swallowing exercises and techniques. Speech therapy also worked with Lyndel on memory, cognition and vocalization of sounds for word production.

She made great progress and was ready to head home using just a quad cane for support when walking out of the hospital alongside her husband, Brian. The day after her discharge from HonorHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, Lyndel was admitted to Flagstaff Medical Center for a procedure to replace her original bone flap, or the piece of bone that was removed during her craniotomy.

After a few days of recovery at the hospital, Lyndel was ready to head home again.  Unfortunately, her time at home was very short-lived; she was readmitted to the hospital a day later with a bad headache and worsening neurological status. Imaging showed that Lyndel had both fluid and air collection on her brain as well as a new brain bleed. This required surgery once again to decrease the cranial pressure.

This setback meant that Lyndel needed additional rehabilitation, but having had such a good experience at HonorHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, the decision as to where to go was an easy one. Lyndel returned to the hospital for continued rehabilitation where she again required physical, occupational and speech therapy to address her impaired coordination, physical weakness, deconditioning, cognition and speech deficits. Lyndel also struggled with apraxia, which affected her ability to make certain movements with her mouth. Speech therapists utilized a specialized apraxia application to assist her with putting together phrases and improving her language deficits.

After several additional weeks at HonorHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, Lyndel once again made great progress in her recovery and was excited and very ready to reunite with her family and discharge home just in time for the start of the holiday season. Lyndel is continuing her rehabilitation with outpatient therapy and is doing very well. She and her family are grateful to her physicians, nurses and therapists at HonorHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, commenting that they were “very accommodating and did a great job with communication and answering questions.”