Gratitude Stories – Andrea
Newport Hospital Makes Andrea Feel ‘Unstoppable’
It was October of 2022, and Andrea Blair’s life was about to change in a sudden and cruel way. “I wasn’t feeling well for a few days,” she remembers, “and one morning I woke up with tingling in my feet and having trouble walking…then my legs just gave out on me.”
The cause of Andrea’s mobility loss would later be identified as multiple sclerosis, a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. In what felt like the blink of an eye, Andrea, a 36-year-old high school assistant principal, had her whole world turned upside down.
“I went from walking—and sometimes running—up three flights of stairs after young-ins who were skipping class to paralysis in my lower extremities in less than a week. It was life-changing and happened that fast.”
Fortunately, the medical response was also fast. In a matter of just a few days, Andrea was transported from the hospital she received emergency services and stabilization at to Newport Hospital, where she immediately began intensive rehabilitation.
“When I arrived at Newport Hospital, my room was already ready, and the nurses were in there waiting for me. They were all smiles and welcoming and their words were very reassuring,” she recalls. “They dropped my anxiety level and made me feel at home.”
They also got right to work.
Occupational and physical therapy started quickly, with 90 minutes of each every day being the norm. “Everyone on the team was invested in seeing the slightest progress,” Andrea adds, “and I always felt like my health and well-being was their top priority.”
During her six weeks of inpatient services at Newport Hospital’s award-winning Vanderbilt Rehabilitation Center, Andrea was among the first patients to undergo therapy using the hospital’s recently acquired EksoNR. A high-tech, wearable exoskeleton suit, the EksoNR re-teaches the brain and muscles on correct step patterns, weight shifting, and posture, with the goal of hopefully helping patients to walk properly on their own again.
Andrea jokes that she felt like a “cyborg or Transformer” donning the state-of-the-art apparatus, but marvels at how well it worked and how much it advanced her progress. “It really gives you the feeling that you’re walking on your own and it trains you toward what’s possible.”
Now back home, Andrea puts into practice everything she learned at Vanderbilt and continues outpatient OT and PT three or four times a week. She says she remains hopeful and is always making forward progress. “Every week, I can do a little more and walk a few steps further.”
Reflecting on her Newport Hospital experience, Andrea says, “’Team’ is not the right word to describe those caregivers. They’re more like family. My slogan with them was ‘I am unstoppable’ because they empowered me with that feeling.”