Ben Mizrahi, a dedicated colorectal surgeon from Overland Park, Kansas, loved taking an annual ski trip to Colorado around the holidays. As the calendar flipped to 2022, the 49-year-old husband and father of three once again hit the slopes with his family. Then, Ben began to feel sick after attending a New Year’s Eve party. Once he returned home, Ben knew he needed to see his doctor. He soon found himself as a patient at the hospital where he worked, battling COVID-19.
“I got sick. I mean, deathly sick,” Ben remembered. “I was intubated for five weeks and paralyzed. Many people thought I wasn’t going to make it. Just making it through that was a miracle.”
After more than 90 days in the ICU at Menorah Medical Center, Ben was ready for his next move. But he and his family faced a tough decision: receive rehabilitation at the hospital where he works or come to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals.
“All I knew about Madonna is it’s in Nebraska,” Ben joked. “I went to a football game once in Lincoln. I’m a big Miami Hurricanes fan, and we saw that game in 2014.”
Ultimately, Ben chose to return to Lincoln.
“My decision was pretty hard,” Ben said. “I was giving up a hospital that I worked at, that I know, everyone there knows me and it’s close to home. But in comparison, there’s nothing like Madonna. It’s an amazing process. A co-worker told me they have a system and it works. I’m so glad we chose Madonna.”
That process started slowly. When he arrived at Madonna’s Specialty Hospital, Ben couldn’t walk or even sit up. However, thanks to the careful monitoring of his medical condition by physicians and rehabilitation nurses, his determination, and daily therapies, he began to see positive results.
“Ben is amazing,” Dani Willey, a Madonna inpatient occupational therapist, said. “What stands out the most is his determination to get better. Every challenge I threw at him, he was willing to try. He asked for exercises he could do outside of therapy time as well.”
While using Madonna’s rehabilitation technology, Ben started taking steps. Before he knew it, he could walk more than 500 feet. After that milestone in his rehabilitation journey, it didn’t take Ben long to start using his skills as a surgeon.
Willey, who played a big part in Ben’s recovery, made sure to work Ben’s interests into his therapy. After learning of his background, Willey bought a suture kit so Ben could practice what he does best.
“My goal is always to find tasks that are meaningful to my patients, and when I mentioned getting a suture kit, he was so excited,” Willey said. “He showed me how to do different styles of sutures, and we were able to do this task while standing. He had so much fun with it! I was happy we could find something fun to do that helped him towards his goal of returning to his work.”
Thanks to his determination and his Madonna care team, Ben is on the path to returning to his life. He still deals with issues stemming from long-COVID, mainly his endurance and activity level, but his will and determination are at an all-time high.
“I was a pretty healthy guy,” Ben said “I was active, always on the go and nothing slowed me down really. This was the emergency brake. My thoughts were, ‘Wow, am I ever going to get back to where I was?’ I can’t tell you how happy I was with my decision to come to Madonna. Everyone from the staff to the nurses, they have a goal in mind, and it’s [to] your benefit. Everyone works together to get you there.”