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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

A nurse becomes the patient

February 04, 2020

Being a caregiver comes naturally to Kelli Pellman, a registered nurse. In a role reversal last spring, Kelli suddenly found herself on the other side of the hospital bed. On June 8, 2019, Kelli was dancing with her husband on the deck of their home in Lenexa, Kansas, when their feet tangled, pitching the couple to the ground below. Rushed to Overland Park Medical Center, both suffered injuries, but Kelli’s were more serious and required surgery to fuse her fractured C5-C7 spinal vertebrae.

Unable to walk and needing specialized rehabilitation, Kelli, a 46-year-old mother of two teenage sons, chose Madonna’s Lincoln Campus to help her get back on her feet. Initially, being a patient felt awkward to Kelli, a nursing administrator at a Kansas City surgical center. She quickly discovered a compassionate network of support in her Madonna team of doctors, nurses and therapists sharing in her primary goal: to walk. “It was emotional to say because I didn’t know if that was going to happen or not; but I thought I’ve got to do whatever it takes to walk again.”

Kelli considered rehabilitation a fulltime job and smiled through every difficult challenge. She trusted the process as her team introduced various technologies to strengthen her body. Kelli’s legs regained muscle memory and proper gait during repetitive sessions on the Lokomat, robotic assisted treadmill training. Aquatic therapy furthered those gains as she celebrated taking first steps in the warm water pool. Occupational Therapist Emily Rumery, programmed the Bioness H200 to electronically stimulate nerves and muscles in Kelli’s hands, re-educating her fingers to grasp and pinch. By August, physically and mentally stronger, Kelli stood and traced a path across the therapy gym with a walker.

“I saw, from a different perspective, that giving patients hope and comfort, day in and day out, is an amazing gift,” Kelli said. “It becomes clear when you are cared for by such a person and I was blessed to have many on my team who were the wind beneath my wings.” Five months after the accident, a grateful Kelli resumed work and family commitments. “Life is short and in one instance can change its course,” she reflected. “It’s in journeys like this God gives us the opportunity to grow closer to him. I have learned to focus on appreciating what has been given.”

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