On the Other End of Caregiving

Janet Lewis is known for being a caregiver. As a 47 year-old mother to a 10 year-old daughter, the primary caregiver to her father and a patient service rep at Penn Medicine’s Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic, Janet was a natural at providing care to others. But after realizing she was unable to move out of bed one morning, she soon found herself on the receiving end of that same care.

Her husband rushed to Pennsylvania Hospital, where doctors discovered that Janet had undergone an intense Lupus flare-up. Although she has been living with Lupus for 16 years, this was the worst flare-up she had ever experienced. The episode left her with intense weakness on her left side, which meant she would have to relearn how to perform basic functions including walking, bathing, cooking and brushing her teeth.

“I was petrified,” shares  Janet. “But I was prepared to work for my recovery because I wanted to return to my family.”

After spending a week at Pennsylvania Hospital, she was transferred to the Penn Rehab to regain strength and to relearn life skills. From the moment she arrived, Janet knew that she had made the right decision.

“There’s no place like home, but the staff at Penn Rehab makes it as close to home as possible with their compassion,” says Janet. “At Penn Rehab, there is so much personalization. The entire staff was focused on getting me better.”

As she began undergoing three hours of therapy a day, five days a week, Janet felt her body transforming.

“My first day here, I needed help to move my legs out of bed, and to go to the bathroom. As I continued to gain more strength, I could feel my body getting stronger and more independent,” says Janet. “In therapy, I used muscles I never thought I had.”

Janet credits her therapists for empowering her to work towards reclaiming her life.

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Janet and her outpatient physical therapist, Sabrina.

“Therapy was hard, but the staff was patient and encouraging. They cheered me on, always saying ‘think about your daughter, think about your family’,” says Janet. “I was in great hands. Even when I would say ‘I’m tired,’ they would cheer me on and encourage me by saying, ‘You can do it Mrs. Lewis.” My therapists Erin and Brittany were terrific. They knew that I had it in me to walk again!”

Physical therapist Brittney Lunney worked with Janet during her inpatient rehabilitation.

“Through our therapy sessions, Janet was able to establish her goals, and I worked with her to create plan to meet those goals” says Lunney. “As Janet progressed each session, she became more encouraged by her progress.”

During her recovery, Janet was able to participate in a wide variety of therapies.

“One morning my therapist had me in the practice kitchen at 7:30, relearning how to cook eggs. I had to bend, stretch, reach—all of the things that are required of me when I’m home cooking for my family,” says Janet. “Recreational therapy taught me breathing exercises to relieve stress. We played board games and decorated a Christmas tree with other patients, which I enjoyed.”

Through her three week stay at Penn Rehab, Janet’s main concern was returning home to her daughter, Joi.

“The staff made it a great environment for my family to visit, especially for my young daughter. We would go to the activity room to work on puzzles, and to spend time together,” says Janet. “I kept telling her that Mommy was going to be alright and that Mommy was going to be home soon. Penn Rehab helped me keep that promise to my daughter.”

The entire medical team worked together to ensure that Janet was provided patient education for the most effective home treatment plan possible.

“Our team works together so that everyone is on board with a patient’s care,” says Lunney. “We get to know what our patients want to achieve, and it is great seeing them make that progress.”

After being discharged, Janet received home therapy and began to return to her normal routine.

 “Two days after returning home, I was able to prepare a homemade meal of meatloaf and chicken,” says Janet. “Earlier this week, I was able to clean my bathroom, scrub the tub and mop the floors for the first time in months! Being able to clean again is the best feeling ever!”

As she continues to recover through Penn Therapy and Fitness at University City, Janet is grateful that the team at Penn Rehab has been with her during this difficult time in her life.

“I would recommend Penn Rehab to anyone, the experience was remarkable. There’s nowhere else to go,” says Janet. “The knowledge, compassion and skills demonstrated by the care team got me back to being me.

by Patrice Bendig