Jo Jo’s Journey

Sunday, April 28th, 2013 @ 3:58PM

When Noland Hospital Dothan opened in March 2004 as the first Long Term Acute Care Hospital in the area, very few people in the Wiregrass knew or understood exactly what type of facility or what type of services would be provided. We received many phone calls from families and physicians seeking placement of their “long term” nursing home patients. But not just your typical nursing home patient, the phone calls ranged from placement of ventilator dependent patients to those needing hospice services. After all, they thought, wasn’t this a facility that was the “last stop” for patients who had very little hope of recovery?

On the contrary, Noland Hospital Dothan was and is a place of hope. It is a hospital within Southeast Alabama Medical Center that cares for the sickest of the sick. It is a place of second chances. It is a place that you do not find yourself being rushed out the door, rather a place where patients are given the time and resources for medical rehabilitation and restoration.

Andrexia (Jo Jo) McBride is just one face of Noland Hospital. In February 2011, Jo Jo was a 19-year-old UAB freshman seeking a degree in Nursing. She was known to have Type 1 Diabetes, but was managing well in spite of it. However, she began experiencing weakness when performing activities of daily living and she reported falling a few times. She sought medical attention and had multiple tests trying to identify the cause, but it wasn’t until April when she was hospitalized at UAB that she was finally diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Jo Jo’s battle was just beginning. The weakness progressed, attacking her respiratory system. She was no longer able to breath on her own. She was diagnosed with respiratory failure and placed on a ventilator. She required a tracheostomy and a PEG placement for feedings. Her hospitalization was complicated further by sepsis and MRSA. She was so young and very sick. Her prognosis was not very good. But Jo Jo was a fighter.

In June 2011, the UAB physicians felt she was stabilized enough for a transfer to Noland Hospital Dothan. Being from Elba, the hospitalization in Birmingham was a hardship on Jo Jo’s mom, Kim. Getting back closer to home would be a benefit for them both. Jo Jo arrived in Dothan on June 30th. She was admitted to our high observation unit on the ventilator. She was in a lot of pain due to neuropathy and was requiring high dosages of pain medications. The initial focus was comfort management. Slowly, Jo Jo began to communicate by blinking her eyes. It was hard to believe that this shell of a body was a vibrant college student just four months earlier!

It was four – six weeks before Jo Jo showed any signs of the downward progression of her weakness. The physical therapy department worked with her mobility and in increasing her strength. Speech therapy worked with her on communication and speaking. She eventually was weaned from the ventilator and on November 22, 2011, her trach was removed. Although weak, Jo Jo had turned the corner! Her Christmas gift this year was arriving early!

On December 1, 2011, there was both sadness and excitement in the air at Noland Hospital Dothan. This was the day that Jo Jo would no longer be a patient at Noland. The hallways were lined with staff, tears in their eyes, as the ambulance stretcher rolled by carrying this blessed child. Jo Jo was smiling and waving, as if she were the Marshall in a parade!

Jo Jo was taken to Spain Rehabilitation Hospital in Birmingham to continue her physical, occupational, and speech therapies. Kim, her mom, kept the staff informed of Jo Jo’s progress. Although not walking yet, she is now able to move her legs. Victory is in the works!

In January 2012, Noland received a surprise visit. Jo Jo and her mom stopped by the hospital to visit with the staff. What a blessing for everyone! To witness this limp, lifeless child metamorphous into this vibrant young girl full of life was a miracle. There is no doubt Jo Jo will continue to improve. She has a strong will to succeed and many cheerleaders on the sidelines. Although Jo Jo’s journey may not have been the one she had planned, if she decides to return to her prior course in pursuit of a degree in nursing, she will be equipped with empathy and compassion beyond most.

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