Left to right: Kelly Newbould, physical therapist assistant; Richard Pierce; Aundrea Davis, occupation therapist assistant; and Rocco Sarli, physical therapist

Cleveland, Tennessee, resident Richard Pierce walked into a hospital in Chattanooga for a decompressive laminectomy back surgery on Feb. 2, 2018, not dreaming it would be more than a month before he would be able to walk again.


Complications during the surgery left Pierce almost paralyzed from the waist down. He could only barely move his feet and was experiencing extreme pain in his right leg.


“I was practically bedridden for at least two weeks,” said Pierce, a 68-year-old retired teacher for the Department of Defense.


Pierce came to Life Care Center of Cleveland on Feb. 7 to start his journey to recovery. The first day he tried to use a sliding board to get from his bed to a wheelchair, the pain surprised him, but slowly, though physical and occupational therapies, he started rebuilding strength, decreasing pain and increasing his range of motion.


“They worked with me and worked with me and worked with me,” Pierce said of his therapists.


As time went on, the care team discovered Pierce had other medical issues that needed attention and treatment, and they helped him regulate his blood pressure and get rid of inner-ear-caused dizziness.


“It was very much a process for all of us, very much a collaboration,” said Kelly Newbould, physical therapist assistant.


Although Pierce needed some extra pushing to get started on his therapy sessions, before long, he was progressing quickly in what he was able to accomplish.


“The first time walking, I took five steps in the parallel bars,” Pierce remembered with some emotion. “I didn’t believe it – I didn’t think I’d ever walk again.”


Now, not only is Pierce walking in the parallel bars, but he has graduated to a walker. The pain in his leg is gone, and he returned home to his wife, Paula, also a retired Department of Defense teacher, on April 27.


Pierce plans to return to Life Care Center of Cleveland as an outpatient to continue improving his gait so he can walk without a walker again.