Evelyn Muniz’s first night of inpatient rehabilitation is one she prefers not to reflect on. Admitted for rehabilitation at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Ocala after a below-the-knee amputation of her left leg, Muniz was angry and scared—angry that she had to have a life-saving amputation that rocked her world, and scared of what her life would look like when she left the hospital. Two weeks later, the day before she was scheduled to return home, those fears have turned into confidence and peace. “When I first came here, it was hard,” Muniz said. “I cried the whole night, but I’m going home feeling totally different. I’ve learned to have patience. It’s hard to explain how I feel inside, but I feel totally different."
Preparing for daily life
As a caregiver for her young grandchildren, Muniz knew that despite her frustrations and fears, regaining her independence was necessary, and that it wouldn’t always be an easy journey. Muniz’s therapy team worked with her to establish goals that were most important to her, and to develop a care plan and strategies that would help her reach them. “She is a caregiver, so independence—getting in and out of chairs, cooking, bathing—those things were most important,” said Nasstasha Fackler, physical therapist assistant. “We have a daily regiment, hopping, working on distance, transfers, balance.” To learn strategies for approaching everyday activities, Muniz worked with occupational therapy in the hospital’s activities of daily living suite. The suite features a full kitchen, washer and dryer, a full bathroom with a bathtub, and a bed.
“She worked on the cooking, dressing, getting in and out of the car,” Fackler said. “When she goes home, for now she’ll be in a wheelchair until she gets her prosthetic but making sure she can still take the kids to school, cook for them and other things was important.” That firsthand experience and education she received played a large role in increasing her confidence as she was preparing to discharge. “I made eggs and I got to learn a lot of things and how the experience is different. I’m going to learn how to do things two ways—with two legs like I used to and with one,” Muniz said. “The ADL was very helpful to see exactly what it would be like at home.”
A mental transformation
Over the course of her two weeks at Encompass Health Ocala, a key piece of Muniz’s progress was the mental transformation she experienced. With each day and each therapy session, she gained confidence in her ability to continue to care for her grandchildren. She also learned that having patience with yourself and is a key to adapting to life after limb-loss. Things are different now, she said, but she’s learning to accept that difference and move forward. “I’ve always been the one who did things myself and I’ve learned that if I can’t finish something today I can finish it tomorrow and that’s why God gave us one day after the other,” she said. “Fifty years I lived with my leg, and now it’s gone forever. I’m learning how to live with it and cope with it.”
She’s still learning, she said, and more acceptance comes each day. “Sometimes I look at my leg and I feel like it’s not me, but I’m facing it little by little and facing that this is me and it doesn’t stop you,” Muniz said. “I’m going to be stronger I promise you.” Though she still has some jitters about returning home and resuming her role as caregiver to her grandchildren, Muniz knows that Encompass Health Ocala has set her up for lasting success. “Home will be a different experience, but I know in my heart I can do it because of the people here,” she said. “They taught me all the skills I need and gave me faith in myself. I’m grateful for this place. I really am.”