Mark Knott was enjoying life, spending time with his spouse, Vicky, and three sons, Lance, T.J. and Colton. He spent his days as a car salesman, a position he’s had for over 30 years. In his spare time, Mark loved riding his Harley motorcycle and going to the shooting range. Then COVID-19 threatened to change it all.
In late August, after a full day at work, Mark began feeling cold while eating dinner. He decided to take a hot shower to warm up. As he began to get out of the shower, he noticed his legs were weak and called out for help. Sensing something was seriously wrong, Vicky called 911. "That was my first ride in an ambulance," Mark said. "I was healthy prior to that."
Mark was taken to UPMC Hanover where staff gave him aspirin, performed an MRI and CT scan and observed him overnight. He was also tested for COVID-19, despite not having any symptoms. That test came back positive.
After 10 days at UPMC, Mark was ready for the next step in his recovery journey. He chose Helen M. Simpson Rehabilitation Hospital.
When Mark arrived, he was unable to walk independently, had limited use of his left upper and lower extremities and was experiencing slurred speech.
His goals included reclaiming his ability to walk independently, driving, returning to work and spending time with his sons at the shooting range.
Physical therapists started to work with Mark on balance, strengthening and endurance exercises. Upon building enough strength, he progressed to an overhead harness system that partially supported his weight until he had enough strength to support himself fully. Eventually, Mark was able to start using a quad cane on his right side, then his therapists focused on his left side.
“They really pushed me emotionally and physically,” Mark said. Therapists also had him practice walking on various surfaces, indoor and outdoor, as well as going up and down stairs to simulate what he might encounter when returning home.
Next, occupational therapists taught Mark how to transfer from one area to another, such as the floor to a sofa. They utilized parallel bars to help Mark with balance and bending to retrieve items from various heights. He also spent time in an outdoor raised garden picking vegetables which helped improve his reaching and grasping abilities. The team also assisted Mark with his specific job-related activities, which he hoped to return to.
Mark knew he was getting better when he was able to walk to the bathroom with just a cane and a minimal assist as well as the ability to get up off the floor. “That wasn’t easy, but it was necessary,” said Mark.
Prepping for discharge to home was also an important part of Mark’s therapy. His care team provided him with emergency and fall prevention training. Although visitors were limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, his family was still able to participate in this education as well, and Mark’s ability to see his family kept him motivated to keep working hard.
After three weeks at Helen M. Simpson, Mark was ready to go home. Upon departure, he was able to use a quad cane for up to 100 feet and walk up a full flight of stairs. He was also independent for most daily living and self-care activities.
Mark’s advice to others: “Do what you need to do to get better. Do what you’re told and push, push, push through it in order to achieve your goals. Life is worth it!"