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"Baystate saved my life!" Patient Carol Miller takes steps to leave her wheelchair behind

April 08, 2016

Carol Miller suffered from several serious medical issues and had used a powered wheelchair to get around for seven years. Her doctors told her long ago she would never walk again.

After a five-week hospitalization at Baystate Medical Center this past fall, where she almost lost her life due to septic shock, organ failure and pneumonia, she knew she had to make a change.

“Baystate saved my life. I was lying in my hospital bed on the last day of my hospitalization and I said to myself, ‘you’ve got to get yourself going.’ I knew I couldn’t take my life or my health for granted anymore,” said Miller. She also was motivated to walk to improve her health to care for her newly-adopted, special needs dog Kishyu.

An outpatient at Baystate Wing Rehabilitation Services several times before, Miller asked physical therapist Dena Plante to help her gain her balance and strength to walk without her wheelchair.

“At first I could only stand and pivot to a chair. I knew I had to get out of the wheelchair and I was determined,” said Miller.

“She’s worked hard,” said Plante. “Carol reminds me why I love my job and deserves full credit for all the positive changes.”

Despite being a little skeptical, the staff took on the challenge without hesitation. “If anyone had asked in the beginning, we would have been reluctant to say with certainty that we would get her walking, especially as quickly as it happened,” reflected Lori J. Manseau, MHA, physical therapist, and director of Rehabilitation Services, Baystate Wing Hospital.

Earlier this year, Miller took her first steps with a rolling walker and now uses her walker exclusively. She has also gone from using oxygen all day, every day, to using it only to sleep. And she was taking insulin three times a day for her diabetes and now only takes it once a day. She hopes to stop altogether soon.

“I have so much more to do,” said Miller. "I want to lose another hundred pounds.”

Photo: Carol Miller (right) with physical therapist Dena Plante.