James Millard with (left to right) Jennifer Connor, physical therapist assistant; Russell Wright, occupational therapist assistant; Sherry McGuire, PTA; and Sandra Millard, James’ wife

James Millard was in a bad state when he came to Life Care Center of Rhea County in Dayton, Tennessee, for rehabilitation on Jan. 18, 2019.


“I was hospitalized at Memorial Hospital [in Chattanooga] on Dec. 26 with respiratory failure,” Millard remembered. “I spent two weeks on a ventilator.”


Millard was extremely weak. He was unable to walk or even stand, and he needed total assistance to bathe and get dressed, as well as to sit up and even roll over in bed. He needed extensive assistance with daily grooming tasks.


“I literally could not move a single muscle other than just a twitch in my ankles,” said Millard.


The physical and occupational therapy teams at the facility started working with Millard six days a week to turn those outcomes around for him. They began with bed exercises for his core and legs and used electrical stimulation and deep tissue massage to work out the severe muscle knots in his legs. Soon he was able to progress to sitting exercises, moving from one surface to another on a sliding board and then standing.


Millard practiced walking for a while on the parallel bars and then graduated to walking with a walker.


“This facility is great!” said Millard. “Everyone was so friendly, encouraging and supportive through this process.”


Tracy Hull, physical therapist assistant, served as Millard’s primary therapist. She shared, “Mr. Millard is such a motivated and hardworking patient. There was never any exercise that he refused to do. Although working out the muscle knots in his legs was not his favorite, he persisted.”


While physical therapy did its part, occupational therapy was just as vital to Millard’s success. Therapists worked with him to strengthen his upper body and restore function for everyday activities like getting dressed, bathing and brushing his hair.


Eventually, Millard regained his independence. He returned home on March 4 and is continuing therapy as an outpatient to continue to improve his balance.


“It’s the miracle cases like Mr. Millard’s that really get you excited,” said Keith Collins, director of rehab. “He was about as low as you can get functionally. The first day that I checked in with him, he couldn’t move a muscle short of just muscle twitches, and now he is walking without an assistive device!”