Man suffering from extreme muscle weakness after hernia surgery recovers with help from rehabilitation therapy at Jackson North

man with neck hernia next to nurse

By: Krysten Brenlla

Brian Kuhl, 48, rarely ever needed to visit a hospital for health concerns.

Despite his healthy living, Kuhl suffered from a hernia – a bulging of an organ or tissue through an abnormal opening in the intestine or abdomen. The hernia was massive, and Kuhl required emergency surgery to remove it. Normally, hernia removals are routine procedures, and patients are discharged from the hospital the next day with minimal pain.
However, Kuhl developed a sepsis infection before his scheduled surgery. The hernia, combined with sepsis, resulted in him spending more than two months fighting for his life in an intensive care unit.

“From one day to the next, my life completely changed,” Kuhl said. “The last thing I remember was going into surgery in April of 2023. When I woke up, a few months had passed and I was lying in a hospital bed unable to move.”

Following several months of recovery, Kuhl was discharged to an acute care facility, followed by a rehabilitation nursing facility. Despite his discharge, his muscles had significantly weakened. He needed rehabilitation therapy to regain his mobility, and ultimately, his independence again.

After exploring several rehabilitation centers, Kuhl decided that Jackson North Medical Center’s rehabilitation program was the best fit.

When Kuhl first started therapy at Jackson North in November 2023, he had several challenges; he could not walk, had difficulty standing, and suffered from weakness in his hands. However, with hard work and dedication, he slowly improved.

“During Brian’s initial evaluation, we saw that he had poor endurance, and extreme weakness – we weren’t able to walk more than 10 steps,” said Kayla C. Williams, a physical therapist at Jackson North. “But after months of therapy, it’s like Brian is a new person; he’s gone from using the wheelchair to walking by himself, and so much more.”

With help from physical and occupational therapies, Kuhl worked on mobility, climbing stairs, and balance. Additionally, with help from Harmony, Jackson North’s facility assistance dog, he worked on tasks like bending down to pet her, brushing her hair to help with the weakness in his hands, and walking her on a leash.

By March, Kuhl went from needing a wheelchair to walking by himself with a cane.

“Waking up and not being able to use my legs, I kept thinking, ‘Am I ever going to be able to use them again? Will I be able to walk again?’ Walking is something we take for granted – you don’t even realize what goes into it,” Kuhl said.

Today, Kuhl is able to get around with minimal assistance. He is able to climb up and down stairs, transfer on his own, bend down, and walk outside.

“I always say that our patients do all of the work; we guide, but they put in the effort,” Williams said. “He was always putting in the work, and we were always making progress. His family was always there to support him, too, and that makes all the difference.”

For the future, Kuhl is looking forward to continuing his rehabilitation therapy to walk without the need of an assistive device. He continues to receive outpatient rehabilitation therapy at Jackson North, with the goal to regain full independence.

“I wasn’t expecting a miracle, I knew it would take work and time,” he said. “But, these are miracle workers at Jackson North, and they gave me back my ability to walk again. I can’t thank them enough.”