Safely navigating your home, getting dressed, preparing and eating a meal, keeping your balance, even getting up from a chair are things most people take for granted. When illness, injury, or the effects of aging diminish your abilities, these routine tasks become challenging. When illness struck New Hampshire native Paula Stone, Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire (VNH) was there to help get her on the road to recovery and reach functional independence.
Paula has been the Administrative Specialist at the Enfield Police Department for over 30 years and is at a point in her life where she is ready to retire. While at home one afternoon, she was talking to her daughter on the phone and began to feel very strange. She called one of the paramedics at the Police Department and insisted he collect his supplies and come over right away. When they arrived, they found that her blood pressure was very high and took her to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC).
“They thought I had COVID at first,” Paula said. It turned out that she had septicemia, a serious bloodstream infection. Her physical condition was so terrible that an induced coma was necessary. To help clear out the infection, the doctors performed surgery on the backs of her legs to drain it out. After three weeks in a coma, Paula awakened with a surreal feeling. “I felt like I was living in my dreams and I would wake up still living in them,” she said. Paula didn’t know that she was at DHMC until three weeks after she awakened from the coma. She thought that she was in Woodsville, NH and across the street from her was a farm with kittens. Though Paula had awakened from her coma, she still had a long road ahead of her.
After two months at DHMC she transferred to Mt. Ascutney Hospital to begin the next leg of her recovery journey. For the next five weeks, Paula had to relearn basic things like how to stand up, how to walk, how to swallow, and even how to use the bathroom. “I thought you would wake up and be better, but no…I had to learn all this stuff over again,” she explained.
When Paula was released from the hospital, she decided that receiving rehabilitation services at home was the best option for her. “I could have gone to the hospital for rehabilitation, but I would have had to park and walk a long distance through the parking lot and hallways,” she said. “It’s a killer when your legs aren’t doing what they should be doing.” The surgery Paula had on the back of her legs made it hard to pull her legs out and walk, as it would pull on the stitches and scar tissue.
For the next month, Paula received Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy from VNH to regain her strength. Being at home not only helped Paula regain her strength so that she could return to work to train her replacement and officially retire, but it also helped with her feeling of loneliness. “I couldn’t wait to get home!” Paula said. Due to visitor restrictions during the pandemic, Paula was only able to see her husband twice. “I was feeling depressed because I had been away from home for so long and couldn’t see anyone.”
Paula described how she will never forget her Physical Therapist Jenn Kiser and Occupational Therapist Julia Klein, as they made an impact in her life when she needed it. “They’re my homies!” Paula exclaimed. “They were my saviors once I was back at home.” “They believed in me and had me believing in myself that I could accomplish more. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for their help.”