Phyllis Hester with Ariel McFadden, occupational therapist assistant (left) and Claudia Castano, physical therapist assistant

As a retired daycare worker, Phyllis Hester used to watch babies as they learned to walk.


She never expected to have to learn to walk again herself.


However, after a surgery went bad and left Hester with an accidental puncture in her lung, she found herself on life support and then in the intensive care unit.


As Hester recovered, she was able to leave the hospital but needed physical and occupational therapies before she was strong enough to go home. On Feb. 5, 2019, she came to Life Care Center of Cleveland, Tennessee.


“When I came, I couldn’t walk,” said Hester. “At first, I was nervous about therapy, but the therapists calmed me down, and I said I wasn’t giving up.”


In the beginning, therapists had to take exercise sessions slow and steady. Hester’s heart rate would speed up with very little movement, and she had to be monitored carefully and take frequent rest breaks. Breathing exercises, medication and work on endurance improved her heart rate, and she was able to work more effectively on her balance, walking and self-care.


“She was able to reach all her goals,” said Claudia Castano, physical therapist assistant. “She’s moving around independently, and she can self-monitor now.”


Hester added, “I’m in a great place now. I feel great.”


The therapists even worked with Hester on the movements she would need to master to take care of her three dogs at home. She returned home with her daughter on Feb. 28.