“I feel like I can run a marathon now. It has changed my life."
See Gwendolyn's Story
Around the middle of last year, Gwendolyn started feeling unbelievable pain constantly throughout the day. She couldn’t sit for too long or get out of a chair without her joints hurting and being in tremendous pain. Her pain was starting to affect her everyday life and she knew she couldn’t continue bearing through the agony.
A change for the better
Gwendolyn was hesitant to return to the physician and hospital where she had her first procedure, so her daughter convinced her to come from Alabama to New Orleans for a consultation at Touro with Dr. Lance Estrada. Touro’s Bone & Spine Center is a Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Center and cares for patients across the gulf south region. When Gwendolyn met with Dr. Estrada she knew this experience would be different. He reviewed her x-rays with her, listened to her concerns and discussed the importance of knee replacement surgery and how it would decrease her pain and improve her quality of life. “He saw how bad my knee was and suggested that I have the knee replacement sooner than later and I told him ‘I’m ready” Gwendolyn recalls. They then scheduled the knee replacement surgery for January 6, 2019.
Gwendolyn’s experience with Dr. Estrada and the Touro Bone & Spine team was completely different than her first knee replacement surgery.
On January 5, the day before her scheduled surgery, Gwendolyn arrived at Touro for her comfort night at the hospital. Touro’s Bone & Spine Center schedules patients to come into the hospital the night before surgery for a comfort night where the patient can get settled into their hospital room and relax the night before the surgery, with no interruptions. “We checked in on Sunday night and they put me in the most beautiful room overlooking the city,” Gwendolyn shares. She believes that this comfort-night helped her relax the night before surgery, and in return, has also helped her recovery.
The next morning, they took Gwendolyn into the surgery room and began her knee replacement. Once the surgery began, the knee replacement was finished in a total of 20 minutes. She spent a few days in the hospital post-surgery and was discharged with instructions for physical therapy.
As nice as pie
When talking about her time in the hospital, Gwendolyn says, “I’ve been in many hospitals and none of them compared to the treatment I got here. From the Sunday comfort night to the time I checked out, the entire staff, from housekeeping, dietary, my nurses and therapist, everyone was so personable. They made me feel so welcomed and so special.”
Since Gwendolyn was released from the hospital, she has been going to physical therapy to help strengthen her knee, restore her knee movement, and to help her walk again without the assistance of a walker or cane. At three weeks post-operation, she can do the exercises that normally takes patients six to seven weeks to do. She is progressing faster than the average person and she gives that credit to Dr. Estrada saying, “Dr. Estrada’s care and skill is just so extraordinary and awesome.”
“I feel like I can run a marathon now. It has changed my life. When your body is in pain, you’re a different person. I was not my bubbly self before my knee replacement. It has changed my whole personality and I came out on the better end this time.”
With a few more weeks of physical therapy ahead, Gwendolyn looks forward to begin baking again and preparing to sell her famous pies at Jazz Fest in April, without any pain.
“I'm more than a survivor. I'm in for the long haul and I feel like I'm going to do this and there's no stopping me.”
See Virginia's Story
“I have a family that’s with me all the way. As I walk through my treatment, they walk with me. ”
See Patricia's Story
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2017. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I cried a lot. It was like a funeral to me. My treatment included 8 rounds of chemoradiation and 39-40 radiations. I had a little setback with chemo – I had an allergic reaction to one of the chemos they were giving me.
I finished my chemo in November 2017. I had my surgery, mastectomy, on December 6, 2017. After the mastectomy, I then started seeing Dr. Tandon for reconstruction.
I still have a bad case of neuropathy. My oncologist said the neuropathy could last a long, long time. I have difficulty sleeping sometimes because of it. I often wish the ground was made of cotton to put my feet on and ease the pain. My hands burn all the time. Being able to get my treatment here in the cancer rehab means a lot to me. They’re very helpful and very nice. I love them too.
I had Dr. Caputto, Dr. Colfry, and Dr. Tandon as my physicians. I love all three of them; they’re amazing and awesome.
I meet a lot of people here at Touro. I see the psychiatrist sometimes too because I have some issues with anxiety and dealing with cancer itself. That was very frightening for me. I was devastated about it. Right now, I’m doing okay and recovering.
Touro is the best place for me. I have nothing to complain about here. They have been the best. I started with the Daughters of Charity and they sent me here to do some tests and that’s how I got here. They sent me to the best – top-notch.
I know I’m more than a survivor. I’m strong. I’m a fighter. I have so much to fight for; lots of grandkids. I have a family that’s with me all the way. As I walk through my treatment, they walk with me. Cancer isn’t a death sentence. I thank God every day for my doctors, I love them.
“I'm now a survivor who looks at others and goes 'You can make it'”
See Deborah's Story
“On his anniversary of receiving dialysis, Thomas Franklin...”
See Thomas's Story
On his anniversary of receiving dialysis, Thomas Franklin loss all his muscle strength. He was rushed to the hospital where he coded. The Touro Inpatient Rehabilitation Center has helped Thomas to regain his balance and to strengthen his muscles. In the program, his goal was to ride in the Zulu parade on March 5. Thomas was able to accomplish this goal. Way to go, Thomas! To learn more about Touro Rehab, go to touro.com/rehab
“They treat you like an individual, not just as another number. They have given me a lot of hope.”
See MaLou's Story
“What I think the problem is with people that don't understand, not knowing is the scariest part. So if they look at me, I want them to look in the mirror and say 'This is the other side'”
See Kathleen's Story
“For every movement I am working on, I already feel it is paying off. That’s why I’m putting all of my effort in.”
See Sylvia's Story
Sylvia Huete, 77, has been a New Orleans native for most of her life – she is a retired attorney and professor at Dillard University, mother, artist and world traveler; and has been living with Parkinson’s disease since 2006.
In her retirement, Sylvia’s passions are painting and traveling. She loves to experience new places and express herself through art. As a person living with Parkinson’s disease, these passions are now challenging for Sylvia, but she is determined to do everything she can to slow the progression of her disease and work hard to maintain daily activities that she enjoys. Exercise plays a large part in maintaining these abilities and the latest LSVT BIG™ therapy at Touro is already making a difference for Sylvia in her physical stability and in performing daily activities such as getting in and out of the car and getting dressed.
“Out, turn…1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and finish BIG.” These words are repeated with liveliness by Touro rehab patient Sylvia Huete as she practices one of her LSVT BIG™ exercises during a Friday morning therapy session. She stands, spreads her arms out as wide as she can and pivots, holding for a count of 10 and repeats This is one of the many exercises designed to strengthen her muscles and improve balance in her arms and legs in her one hour therapy session and home exercise session.
In addition to the strengthening exercises, the LSVT BIG™ program helps patients identify functional goals and develop exercises and practices to improve or meet those goals. What seem likeordinary, unnoticed tasks for most individuals are important keys to independence for a person with Parkinson’s disease. Sylvia’s LSVT BIG™ goals include dressing herself and improving the time it takes her to get dressed, pulling her keys out of her pocket and getting in and out of the car.
“LSVT BIG™ allows patients to identify important tasks in their daily life, and we work them into components to practice in therapy,” said Touro LSVT™-certified Occupational Therapist Francine Bienvenu. “Sylvia has already improved the time it takes her to get dressed by improving the way she puts her pants on by rotating her body. She also has learned that pants with a zipper are easier for her because they open wider.”
Sylvia and her therapists practice getting in anD out of the car with an exercise that includes pushing open the car door, learning forward, stepping up and then stepping out away from the car in two movements that allow her to slam the door shut in a final, BIG movement.
“For every movement I am working on, I already feel it is paying off,” said Sylvia. “That’s why I’m putting all of my effort in.”
After just two weeks of LSVT BIG™ physical and occupational therapy, Sylvia improved her posture so much that she had to extend the length of her cane. This is something her therapist Francine referred to as an “Ah-ha” moment.
LSVT BIG™ is not a small undertaking. In addition to one hour of therapy four times per week during the month-long program, patients practice exercises and homework for an additional hour per day. On days patients do not come to therapy, they practice for two one-hour sessions at home. And the exercises do not stop at the end of the month-long program. LSVT™ teaches patients exercises to practice for life. It’s a use it or lose it philosophy. Maintaining strength and skill takes a commitment to practice daily and a strong self-determination.
“I was healed one time and I will be healed again.”
See Dorothy's Story
I was at Charity Hospital when I diagnosed in 2001 with a rare breast cancer and I have been coming in and out of the chemo room for a long time. I had to remove my breast in 2001 and never had reconstruction surgery. In 2010 my cancer came back in the breast wall. I started developing lymphedema when my arms kept swelling and getting bigger and bigger. Right now, I come here to Touro every three weeks to do my chemo and once a week I come and do my physical therapy. I’ve been off and on doing lymphedema treatment because the swelling in my arm goes down then comes back again. Right now, my arm is better since I’ve been coming to treatment. I used to not be able to raise my arm up because it was so stiff and heavy. The treatment is definitely helping.
This program has meant a lot to me. Everyone here is so friendly. They wrap me and give me special treatment. I feel like a celebrity. Everyone here is so amazing and I just love them all. We are all a family here.
It’s been 18 years battling this cancer. I have a fighting chance and I know I am a survivor, and I am more and more enthusiastic that everything will be alright. I was healed one time and I will be healed again.
I am more than a survivor; I am very special.
“I’m a completely different person. I was so close to giving up, and this was my last hope.”
See Janis's Story
They gave me several diagnoses, and the last one was stage 3 breast cancer with lymphatic involvement. I went to have a mammogram – I had not had a mammogram in about three years because I did not have health insurance, but before that, I had my mammograms religiously every year. When I went, I just knew that something was wrong. They came out and said, “we want you to have more test done” and I was officially diagnosed on October 23, 2013. At first, it was diagnosed as stage 2 breast cancer, and I thought “that’s no problem, I can handle that.” Later it was diagnosed as a stage three with lymphatic involvement.
We started the treatment and I was scheduled for 6 months of the “red devil chemo”. They call it the red devil because it’s the most effective chemo available and the subsequent reactions are horrible. After the third round of the red devil, my skin came off one night in bed. I couldn’t walk anymore. At my next appointment, I told them that we need to change the treatment because I couldn’t do it anymore, I was dying. I was pretty sick throughout the chemo and had my plan b in place. I was planning on going to Ecuador and retiring there at 63 and I thought to myself “I may not be going to Ecuador but think about the trip I’m going to have.” I had really come face to face with my mortality.
At this point, the cancer tumor had shrunk by 90% so they were able to change my chemo to something milder. I slowly regained my strength and I made a turn for the better. I felt like I was going to live. The next step was the radiation, which was optional, but I was so angry with the cancer at that time I decided to go forward with the radiation. I had 35 rounds of radiation and compared to the red devil; it was nothing. I got through that and had to wait for the skin to heal for the reconstruction surgery. I had a double mastectomy and diep flap reconstruction. I told the plastic surgeon “If I’m going to be dead in three years, I don’t want to have this done” and he said, “Janice, I have a feeling you will be around for a long long time.” That involved two surgeries 8-10 hours each.
Once I was healed for the surgery, I packed up my bags and headed to Ecuador where I lived for 4 ½ years. After about three years I started having really bad neuropathy symptoms and about six months ago I started developing lymphedema. I saw many doctors in Ecuador who wanted me to use a cane, and another one said I had scoliosis, and I knew that was not it. I came back home to the states for help. I was looking for help for 3-4 months and the pain was just indescribable. I went through my insurance company and was sent to a physical therapy place that I knew couldn’t address my needs.
I finally found the Touro Cancer Rehab Center for post-cancer treatment, which was exactly what I needed. I was in so much pain and I don’t even remember what I told them when I first met them because I was so discouraged. This place has literally been a lifesaver for me. I’m so much more mobile, the pain is ¾ of the way gone and the treatment has really been a big factor in that. I can feel my arms tingling, I’m walking better. It’s a combination of the Anodyne Therapy and the exercises we’re doing here. It’s night and day, I’m a completely different person. I was so close to giving up, and this was my last hope.
I am more than a survivor; I am a writer and an activist.
“The Cancer Rehabilitation Program at Touro helped me through my recurrence of breast cancer and to return to my life and doing the things I love.”
See Marguerite's Story
The Cancer Rehabilitation Program at Touro helped me through my recurrence of breast cancer and to return to my life and doing the things I love. Post-surgery, the strengthening and balance exercises I have worked on with the therapists have helped me return to doing daily activities I did before surgery, like walking, cooking and laundry. The physical therapists were very knowledgeable and helpful. The program helped me tremendously and I think other cancer patients could benefit from it as well. The program helps patients feel more prepared and positive about the recovery process and returning to everyday activities and independence.
“Dr. Zakris was highly recommended. I love her and her staff. They are fabulous. When you are going through something like this, their friendliness really puts you at ease.”
See Kaye's Story
As a retired nurse, Kaye has a different perspective compared to other patients.
“Having a background in nursing, I have more respect for the people who take care of me and am probably more observant than the average person,” she said.
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2007, she was in a unique position, one in which she didn’t want to know too much about her cancer.
“A little knowledge can be a lot scary,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘I can’t have cancer.’ I had no family history and had my regular mammograms. I wasn’t going to let it consume my life.”
Kaye feels strongly about putting trust in your doctors.
“You have to have a doctor you can talk to,” she said. “I really lucked out—I have some of the best doctors.”
Both chemotherapy and radiation were required as part of Kaye’s treatment plan.
“Dr. Zakris was highly recommended,” she said. “I love her and her staff. They are fabulous. When you are going through something like this, their friendliness really puts you at ease.”
The New Orleans native has stayed busy even during treatment, traveling between her house on the Lakefront and St. Francisville, where she and her husband are renovating a home.
“When you go through the hallways here, people talk to you. It’s not like the cold, sterile hospital environments where no one acknowledges you. You can tell that it’s become part of the culture here.”
See Sr. Linda's Story
Sr. Linda D has spent her life taking care of others, working as a patient liaison in Charity Hospital’s emergency room until Katrina and then as a referral coordinator at one of the local Daughters of Charity clinics. When Sr. Linda was diagnosed with metastatic cancer in May 2006, she was in need of the caring touch she was used to doling out.
The treatment plan included radiation at Touro under the care of Dr. Zakris.
“When you go through the hallways here, people talk to you,” Sr. Linda said. “It’s not like the cold, sterile hospital environments where no one acknowledges you. You can tell that it’s become part of the culture here.”
In addition, Sr. Linda said the care has been wonderful.
“The staff is very gentle, and they are interested in not only me but in the sisters I live with,” she said. “Tommy is so lighthearted, and the staff that does the treatments do a great job. I laugh a lot when I come here, and that is needed in this department.”
“And Dr. Zakris has the ability not only to teach but to reach people. Her transfer here has brought a wealth of knowledge.”
Sr. Linda said that after having four surgeries in two years, she is grateful to be as healthy as she is. When she has some extra time, she likes to walk, especially on Saturday mornings in Audubon Park.
“There are lots of families out at that time, so I get the opportunity to talk to people,” she said.