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Joanne's Story

Jan 1, 2020


It’s hard for Joanne Ortland to think about a time when doctors told her husband that she was the sickest person in the hospital.  Four years ago, she was fighting for her life with sepsis, the result of an infection pressing on her spinal cord. 

“I had two surgeries and around-the-clock antibiotics for months.  By the grace of God, I survived but was paralyzed in all four limbs and my torso.  I went from being on-the-go to not even being able to lift a bed sheet or push a nurse call button.”

After seventeen days in ICU, she needed to be moved to an inpatient rehab facility.  Joanne’s husband chose the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan. 

“We wondered if I would ever return home, but on the first day, my physical therapist said she’d get me walking again!  Although that was difficult to visualize, our faith was strong, and there was a lot of prayer support.”

Inpatient and outpatient therapy were grueling, and Joanne’s therapists would give her additional exercises to do on her own.  She progressed beyond what anyone expected and never plateaued.  Three milestones gave her great hope for the future – the first time she stood up, lifted her left hand and styled her own hair.   

“I am forever grateful to the therapists and RIM.  I’ve miraculously regained almost all prior level of function and actually walked down the aisle at our son’s wedding in high heels!”

Joanne believes her success at RIM was possible because of the intensity of the program, therapists who specialize in treating spinal cord injury patients, and a state-of-the-art facility that provides a continuum of care across all phases of recovery. 

She currently participates in the RIM Foundation’s SportsAbility Program four days a week, where Adaptive Yoga and Tai Chi are helping her improve even more.