Thanks to help from his “angels,” Mayfield, Ky. tornado survivor Jim Douglas was recently able to return home.
“With what everybody else is going through, I’m really fortunate and I know it,” Jim shares.
He knows he is lucky to have survived the tornado that tore through his hometown in December of 2021. Jim was at work at the candle factory when it collapsed, trapping him beneath 15 feet of debris for six hours. When rescuers brought him out, Jim was rushed to a local hospital, where he was treated for crush injuries to his legs and left arm.
Once Jim was well enough, he transferred to the Otto J. Diller Inpatient Acute Rehabilitation Unit at Mercy Health – Lourdes Hospital. Karen Ferrara, a clinical nurse manager with the rehabilitation unit, notes that in addition to crush injuries, Jim experienced rhabdomyolysis. This is when a breakdown of skeletal muscle due to stress and injury can result in permanent disability.
Inpatient rehabilitation combines round-the-clock nursing care in the hospital with specialized physical therapy, occupational therapy and other therapies as needed. The professional therapists on the unit work closely with patients to help them heal, grow stronger and improve their abilities so they can confidently return home.
Jim needed just this kind of help.
“I wasn’t even capable of getting around in a wheelchair when I got there and they helped me operate it,” Jim shares. “Then the physical therapists got me walking with the walker. They had me on parallel bars to teach me balance because I had no balance when I got there. Occupational therapists taught me how to do everyday life, like shaving, brushing my teeth and taking a shower. I cooked and did laundry, too.”
Jim stayed in the rehabilitation unit for more than two weeks, putting in the hard work to recover from his injuries.
“The different types of pain you go through when your muscles were basically destroyed, it wasn’t easy,” he says. “Just the stretching and walking was painful, but I was encouraged by the workers. Every time I felt a pain, they said ‘that’s a good thing. It means your nerves are coming back.’”
Jim adds, “I progressed quite a bit while there through therapy. While my left leg is stuck in the same spot due to some nerve type of injury, my right leg is at 60 to 70 percent already and is coming along well. My left arm is progressing, too.”
Looking back, Jim immensely appreciates the dedicated care he received from our care team members.
“It was kindness and brutality wrapped up in one, but it was care given with love,” he says. “If they didn’t work with me and push me, I probably wouldn’t be sitting home right now. I’d probably still be there or somewhere else. It was all for my benefit and I can see the benefit.”
Jim shares that two things in particular helped in his recovery.
“My goal was to get well enough to get home and be functional. That was their goal for me, too. Also, they understood me, and I think that makes a big difference. If you take the time to understand who you are dealing with and know what you’re dealing with, you’ll get a lot more out of them. They understood how I am. I can laugh and joke or I can be disgruntled. Every day is not the same for me and they knew how to approach me. In the show ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ Charlie only had three angels. I had a lot more than he did! You can really tell they cared about me.”
Karen notes that “Jim maintained such a positive attitude and was very determined to get back on his feet. He did his best to not let negative thoughts interrupt his progress.”
Jim left the hospital shortly before his 58thbirthday. He was excited to reunite with his sons and his dog at his home, which was spared in the tornado. His recovery will continue on an outpatient basis at another facility close to home.
The team at Lourdes Hospital celebrated Jim’s discharge alongside him. Emily Thompson, a physical therapy assistant, worked with Jim to build strength back in legs and help him start walking again.
“We were super happy and very excited for him to get to go home after everything he went through,” she shares.
“It’s awesome being home,” Jim shares. “The Lourdes Hospital team gave me a bunch of different exercises to do at home, which I am doing. I am getting a little bit of strength back and I hope that I recover well enough to be functional completely on my own, so I don’t have to burden anyone else. I want to be able to take care of myself. It’s going to be a long journey, but I think every day if I keep pushing myself and other people push me gently, then every day it will get a little bit better.”
He adds, “I appreciate and am thankful for everyone that had anything to do with my rescue and my recovery. My heart goes out to them.”Learn more about the inpatient rehabilitation services we offer at Mercy Health.