Adael Gonzalez

Recovery from a traumatic brain injury can often be a complicated and delicate process, and for Adael Gonzalez, this was undoubtedly the case.

Adael underwent a craniectomy, a procedure where part of the skull is removed to remove pressure on the brain. Unfortunately, Adael experienced complications following the surgery, including severe septic shock and acute hypoxemic failure. Adael required the use of a mechanical ventilator due to his respiratory failure.

To liberate from the ventilator and regain his function and independence, Adael transferred to Vibra Hospital of Houston, a critical care hospital located within Houston Medical Center.

“When he first came here, Adael was totally dependent for everything,” noted Justin Sisavath, a physical therapist assistant at Vibra. “So he could not sit on the side of the bed by himself. He couldn’t stand. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t transfer.”

Though the ventilator limited how much Adael could initially participate in therapy, that didn’t mean he couldn’t still benefit from it. “When we first started with his therapy, it was just trying to keep things very simple, like increased leg exercises in bed,” Sisavath explained.

“He progressed very quickly,” recalled Pamela Wallace, DPT, the director of rehabilitation at Vibra. “We started out sitting on the side of the bed, working on trunk control and motor coordination.”

As Adael progressed, his therapy advanced to more intensive exercises. “Then we transitioned to more complicated moves, such as sitting up on the side of the bed, standing for the first time, or transferring from the bed into the wheelchair,” shared Sisavath. “We just focused on the simple and the easy repetition, and that provided him the strength and mobility to really get going.”

“All these activities are just activities that most everybody can do, but people take for granted.”

Adael benefited not only from the Vibra staff’s clinical expertise but also his loved ones’ support. “He has very good, strong support from his family, which helped out a lot,” Wallace noted.

Before long, Adael could stand and even began taking steps. “We started ambulating him with the use of a rolling walker, and he did really well.” The team continued to work with Adael on his coordination and gait quality, including lots of verbal cues. Soon, Adael could ambulate over 300 feet without a walker.

“He did a tremendous job,” Wallace said with a smile. “His family was there the whole way. You could tell he was very determined to get back to the things that he once did before his injury.”

“It’s definitely rewarding to see someone go from nothing to huge gains, huge functional gains. It was tremendous! His family was very excited. That always helps, and I know for sure that part of my job is what makes it rewarding—seeing the after-effect of something that you took part in to help that person recover.”

Wallace also praised Vibra Hospital of Houston’s collaborative approach to patient care. “We have the cohesiveness. We are just one big family. We work as a team. It’s not just the effort on my behalf but the effort of case management for an appropriate discharge. It’s the effort of the whole medical team as far as the doctors really following up and knowing what’s going on with the patients and adjusting the medications if need be.”