Cleveland VA therapists help Army veteran walk again

CLEVELAND - A Northeast Ohio veteran who spent most of the year bedridden is walking again, thanks to help from therapists who just wouldn’t give up.

Lisa Burchett, 63, has spent the last nine months at the Cleveland VA Medical Center. Burchett suffers from muscular dystrophy and came to the VA with respiratory failure from pneumonia. She had to be on a ventilator to breathe.

“I was just so out of it,” Burchett said. “I thought I would be here forever.”

So did doctors, believing Burchett would likely need to spend the rest of her life under their care.

“She was bedridden, she was on the ventilator, she was basically dependent with all her self-care,” explained Erin Swift, Burchett’s occupational therapist. "She couldn’t sit up on her own, she couldn’t stand up, she couldn’t transfer, couldn’t bathe herself, she couldn’t eat."

But Swift, along with Dr. Kaimee Devore, Burchett’s physical therapist, was determined to help the Army vet get better.

After attending a patient-care seminar, the pair realized they could begin using an ambulation sling during Burchett’s therapy sessions — a harness that hooks up to the ceiling and is able to carry her full weight. The therapy allowed Burchett to stand and, eventually, start walking.

“The equipment we use everyday, it kind of just reminded us that we can use it in different ways. It took away a major fear component so it let her do a lot more,” explained Dr. Devore. “It wasn’t just the muscle weakness, it was the fear that she was going to fall or hurt one of us.

“This is definitely a case that I’ll remember my entire career,” Swift said.

Wednesday, Burchett had her trachea removed and is able to breathe without a ventilator.
Next week, just days before Christmas, she will be released and will get to go home for the holidays.

“It is amazing. It’s a true miracle to go home,” Burchett said. “I never thought I would get this far.”

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