Lisette walks through the hallways of Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre. Every few steps, nurses, therapist and porters stop to say hello. She greets each and every one of them with a hug. “I don’t remember all their names, but I remember their smiling faces,” she says. She’s knitted a couple of winter toques and gave them to the therapists. A small gift perhaps, but all she can give to show her gratitude.
Her first visit to Hotel Dieu Shaver was in January 2014 after being at St. Catharines General for asthma and Chronic obstructive Pulmonary Disease complications. She fell and hurt her knee, needing therapy. After six weeks at Hotel Dieu Shaver, her knee healed and she went home.
Her last visit started a little less graciously. Trying to empty a cat litter box, she slipped. She picked herself up and felt fine. But the next day, she started feeling stiff, and eventually found that she couldn’t move at all. Doctors told her she had bulging disks and pinched nerves along her spine. At first she was told her back was inoperable, but her doctor eventually found a surgeon who would operate.
After her surgery, Lisette had to wait for her back to heal. She couldn’t walk or even roll over in her bed. She was sent again to Hotel Dieu Shaver for therapy. “I couldn’t wait to get here,” she remembers. “I told them I wouldn’t go anywhere else but here.”
Lisette had trouble staying still. Always one to keep herself busy, she made fast friends with her four roommates. “We had some good times.” They spent their time doing puzzles, playing bingo with Recreation Therapy, and even racing down the hallways in their wheelchairs with other patients. They cheered each other on as they recovered through their physical therapy. “You hurt together, you laugh together, you cry together,” she says.
Lisette had an undiagnosed blood infection from her surgery and was to be sent to another hospital for treatment. “I didn’t want to leave. I cried. My roommates cried.” When she healed, she was back with her roommates, who had a reunion seeing Lisette return to her familiar room. “There were tears of joy. We were all back together again, with our friends.”
The support of her roommates helped to get her through. “There’s nothing like the beautiful smile to greet you after therapy,” Lisette says. She recalls watching one of her roommates recovering from a stroke. Week after week, they watched their friend struggle with pain, and learning to speak and walk again. “That first time we saw her in the walking sling, and she took a step, we all cried. We were so happy for her.”
She fondly remembers Dr. Luce, Hotel Dieu Shaver’s Chief of Staff. “He’s such a gentle man. You can tell he loves his work.” She tells stories about our recreational and physical therapists, Matt, Jamie, Laura and Darreyl. “Everyone worked together.”
The past owner of a hardware store and plant nursery, she moved to St. Catharines about 15 years ago. Lisette’s father was a mechanic and her mother, a secretary. Lisette knew her way around various tools, and was especially excited that the Carpentry Shop was part of her therapy. She used many of the tools in the shop to build a wooden bird, laser cutting the angles and varnishing the finished product. The bird house still hangs in her living room today, its wings symbolizing Lisette’s own journey to recovery.
Lisette has been home now for five weeks. Though she still suffers from some back pain from the surgery, she’s progressed from being unable to walk, to a wheelchair and finally a walker. Going home was overwhelming at first, but her goal is to one day walk with only a cane. She is still close friends with her roommates—she even shared Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner with one of them.
Through it all, she is thankful for the team at Hotel Dieu Shaver for her recovery and for her new friends. “For all that you do—this place is the best. There’s no other place like this.”