Longtime ICU Nurse Chooses Encompass Health for Recovery after Aneurysm

Success stories

For Casey Haney and her husband Tom, caring for others runs in the family. Casey is the chief nursing officer at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Dothan. Tom was an ICU nurse for 30 years and, more recently, worked as a hospital educator teaching nurses CPR and advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS). Tom and Casey have two children, a son in high school and a grown daughter who requires additional care due to intellectual disabilities. Tom is also a girls high school volleyball coach and enjoys playing the sport himself to stay in shape. When Tom suffered a medical emergency, his and his family’s life changed drastically.

Receiving the Diagnosis

After their son’s basketball game, Tom wasn’t feeling well and started to exhibit stroke-like symptoms including confusion and slurred speech. Knowing the importance of early intervention, the couple quickly went to the emergency room. Tom was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm—a bulge that occurs in the wall of the major blood vessel (aorta) that carries blood from the heart to the body. “If it’s not discovered it will rupture and honestly could cause immediate death,” Casey said. Due to the severity of Tom’s aneurysm, he had to travel more than two hours from his home for surgery.

Choosing the Right Rehabilitation

Due to post-operation complications Tom was in the hospital for longer than expected. He was intubated for an extended period of time, leading to swallowing challenges. His mobility was diminished, and everyday tasks like brushing teeth and getting dressed on his own were difficult. “One of his biggest goals was to get back to coaching and to be as independent as possible because he is the primary caregiver of our child. He does all the things for our family,” Casey said. When it was time to leave the acute care hospital and continue recovery in a different care setting, Casey and Tom chose Encompass Health Dothan. “I know what we can do here. I knew who was going to be caring for him, and that was such peace and comfort,” Casey said.

Up and at ‘Em

Eager to get back to his family and coaching, Tom embraced inpatient rehabilitation and followed his customized therapy plan to a T. He could only lift up to eights pounds at a time and lacked the stamina needed to walk for more than a couple of minutes at a time. He also required a modified diet for his swallowing problems. But he and his care team persevered. “The staff really encouraged me and wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Tom said.

Occupational therapy propelled him toward achieving his first goal in recovery—independently getting himself ready each morning for his physical therapy sessions. “For him to be able to do his activities of daily living independently—like brush his teeth, get in the shower and get dressed—was one of his big goals because he wanted to get his day started as quickly as possible,” Casey said.

In a week’s time, Tom progressed from requiring assistance to stand and walk, to walking with a walker to climbing up and down stairs a few steps at a time without a walker. He also improved his swallowing capabilities and was able to transition to a regular diet during his 10-day stay at Encompass Health. Casey, who’s seen many recoveries in her time at Encompass Health Dothan, was blown away by his progress.

What he was able to accomplish in just 10 days was huge. In such a short time period it was just tremendous compared to the therapy he got at the (acute care) hospital before coming here.”

Casey Haney
Tom Haney's care team celebrates his departure at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Dothan.
Tom Haney and the hospital team at Encompass Health in Dothan celebrate his discharge.

Inpatient Rehabilitation for the Win

Tom shared the joy he felt when he got to enjoy a seemingly ordinary occurrence shortly after returning home. “We went out for dinner for the first time since my hospitalization, and I was able to walk in and out of the restaurant and just be able to sit with my family and enjoy dinner,” he said.

He was also cleared to start coaching volleyball again, and hopefully playing again soon too. “I love the game. I picked it up early in my adult life and have played for 25-30 years. (As a coach) being with the girls and watching them grow and learn to play well is just such a good experience.”