Herman's Story

Herman Cook smiles after therapy.

Herman Cook, a Kentucky native living in Miami, was enjoying retirement after serving his community as a corrections officer. Life took an unexpected turn for Herman when he and his family were in a car accident. His daughter was uninjured, but both Herman and his partner Juliee were hurt and rushed to the emergency room.

Juliee’s injuries were minor, but Herman faced multiple internal injuries including a ruptured diaphragm, which made breathing difficult, as well several back and pelvic fractures. To aid in his breathing, doctors performed a tracheostomy on Herman – making a surgical incision in his windpipe to support his breathing – and placed him on a ventilator. Herman underwent abdominal surgery to repair his diaphragm, enabling him to liberate from the ventilator, but couldn’t speak and required assistance for changing positions and walking. Herman was ready for more intense rehabilitation to help him regain function and gradually resume his independent lifestyle. For that, his family choose West Gables Rehabilitation Hospital.

Herman’s physician-led team assessed his condition and developed a treatment plan. The nursing team closely monitored his medical condition managing his medication and addressing any medical concerns he had. Their care was instrumental in ensuring Herman could actively participate in his rehabilitation goals.

The physical therapy (PT) team helped rebuild his strength, balance and endurance. Therapists worked with him on gait training, helping Herman regain proper walking form, and strengthened his legs with knee extension exercises and the use of ankle weights.  They also conducted balance challenges asking Herman to maneuver around obstacles.

Meantime, occupational therapy (OT) worked on building endurance and overall coordination to help Herman relearn to walk. To achieve this goal, Herman used a recumbent cross trainer that allowed him to be seated while exercising. Therapists employed a range of other activities including having Herman catch a ball while standing to build his stamina and balancing abilities. After a week of therapy, Herman’s endurance improved and his care team started to successfully dial back his supplemental oxygen.

Speech and respiratory therapy also played integral roles in Herman’s recovery, helping him breathe independently and communicate effectively. While he was working on building his strength and endurance through PT and OT, respiratory therapists worked towards liberating Herman from oxygen support by strengthening his lungs through breathing exercises and careful monitoring to continually assess his progress.

To regain his ability to speak, Herman’s respiratory team introduced the Passy-Muir valve. It’s a device used by tracheostomy patients that redirects air flow through the vocal folds, mouth and nose allowing them to speak. Finally able to utter some words and express himself marked a key turning point for Herman. This breakthrough not only aided his interactions but also bolstered his emotional well-being by reestablishing connections with other people.

After 18 days of inpatient rehabilitation, Herman was breathing without supplemental oxygen, walking independently and talking. He was ready to return home to his family.
Herman's advice to those facing similar challenges: "Keep the faith - you can make it."