Jim Sims is an avid golfer. When not on the greens he enjoys spending retirement with his wife, Lenore.
Jim, who survived bladder cancer, ongoing kidney stone issues and several other surgeries, was admitted to Cleveland Clinic Fairview to remove a polyp, or growth, in his colon. After the surgery, Jim fell into respiratory failure and developed subsequent aspiration pneumonia. He was intubated, before receiving a second surgery for further repair.
Several attempts at ventilator liberation failed, so surgeons placed a tracheostomy for airway support and special feeding tube beneath his skin.
When stable, Jim’s doctors recommended Regency Hospital - Cleveland West for further recovery.
After 45 days in bed at the acute care hospital, Jim was ready to begin therapy and return home to his wife and children. While hesitant at first, “Lenore, my son and daughter helped me understand the importance of rehab. I don’t always agree with them but they laid it out on the line.”
Jim’s goals, he said, were “obviously get better, be independent.”
The Regency Hospital physician-led team put a plan in place to make that happen.
Respiratory therapists immediately began ventilator liberation protocols -- a series of breathing, chest exercises and gradual reduction of ventilator settings to build lung stamina. Increased activity improved Jim’s breathing abilities and eventually the ventilator was discontinued. He then stepped down to a neck brace and tube of humidified oxygen connected to the tracheostomy.
Recovery continued to pick up steam as speech therapists retrained swallowing reflexes and encouraged more normal speech using a valve inserted into the airway support. After passing a study indicating he could swallow safely, the feeding tube was discontinued and Jim was moved to a modified diet.
Physical therapy worked alongside, deploying a mobility program that had Jim standing with a walker to build strength. Occupational therapy keyed in on self-care tasks Jim would need to perform for himself such as shaving and brushing hair.
“I didn’t know how injured I was after my surgery. I improved with rehab and their tremendous support,” he said.
Jim’s son visited every day, and his wife and daughter came often. Their presence and encouragement kept Jim motivated.
“My experience here has been more than good,” he said. “It took me a while to understand what was going on but the staff was kind.”
Having met nearly all goals at Regency Hospital, Jim transferred to Cleveland Clinic Rehabilitation Hospital, Avon for continued strength and mobility training.
Upon arrival, Jim was again evaluated by a physician-led team of nurses and therapists. They created a targeted plan to increase independence and daily living skills.
Jim arrived with airway support and a supply of humidified oxygen, so respiratory therapists began working to improve breathing capacity. They fitted him with a Volara system, which simultaneously provided positive airway pressure, vibration to loosen mucus and a nebulizer for medication delivery. Treatment was successful and Jim’s tracheostomy was removed.
Physical therapists concentrated on building Jim’s standing and walking stamina through sessions between parallel bars, a walker and, finally, Jim walking on his own with a therapist following close behind with a wheelchair should Jim need to rest. Soon, he was walking entirely on his own which buoyed his spirits.
Speech therapists addressed speaking and cognitive issues through a variety of exercises, memory-building activities and problem solving. This team also tested Jim’s ability to swallow safely and transitioned him from a modified to regular diet.
With all the signs pointing to being cleared for discharge, Lenore spent time with the therapy team learning how to prepare for Jim’s return to home so ensure his safety.
Not long after, Jim was given the green light. He was eager to sleep in his own bed and, hopefully, get back to swinging his clubs soon.
When leaving, Jim shared: “I learned to understand, looking at myself through this window. At this age, I don’t move like I used to but I believe this has given me more years to live. I can live to 90 or more!”