Sandy’s Story: Advocacy, Healing, and Friendship

Here’s what Homespire client Sandy Steele, 74, says about the chronic medical condition she’s lived with since birth: “The engineers must have been on strike the day they were putting me together.” That plucky attitude—along with a terrific sense of humor—is how Sandy faces the challenges of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a condition that causes hypermobility (“stretchiness”) of her muscles, tendons, and ligaments, resulting in multiple surgeries with lengthy periods of rehabilitation.

In 2019, after Sandy had undergone yet another spinal fusion surgery, her daughter chose home care for her mother rather than send her to a rehabilitation facility for several months. The hospital referred the family to Homespire, an Intermountain Healthcare company.

Advocacy in action

Although Sandy had been taking her narcotics as prescribed, nothing could stand up to the pain. Just the effort of moving her body left her drenched in sweat. “One night, I was trying to roll over in bed and suddenly it felt like my legs were on fire,” she said.

The first thing Sandy’s Homespire Nurse Care Manager did was get her client to a pain clinic. “The family was doing their best,” said Lori, RN, Nurse Care Manager, “but Sandy needed an advocate—someone who knew her way around the healthcare system and could get her the medical attention she needed.”

The pain specialist prescribed gabapentin, a non-narcotic medication that changes the way the body senses pain. The treatment worked wonders for Sandy but getting alignment between the surgery clinic and the pain clinic required some deft navigation. “If Lori hadn’t been there to advocate for me, I wouldn’t have been able to continue seeing my surgeon if I was also seeing a pain specialist,” said Sandy.

Unexpected benefit

With the pain under control and daily in-home caregiving services arranged by Homespire, Sandy was able to move back into her own home. Lori reached out to Intermountain Homecare to arrange twice-weekly in-home visits with a physical therapist (PT) and an occupational therapist (OT). “I have no idea where they came from—they just appeared one day—but both my PT and OT were wonderful,” said Sandy.

An unexpected benefit of getting in-home care was that her husband, who suffers from peripheral neuropathy, started watching Sandy’s sessions with her OT, and soon he was doing the exercises on his own. “Before, my husband was hardly able to walk,” she said. “But now he could catch himself when he stumbled, and if he fell, he could get back up on his own.” Eventually, his doctor authorized the OT to work with him as well, and according to Sandy, his mobility keeps improving.

“The Enforcer”

Lori continued to visit Sandy twice a week to monitor her care, check her vitals, and set up her medications. By the end of the first month, Sandy was doing so well that she no longer needed daily care. Just two months post-surgery, she was back to her best self—active and pain-free. The day Sandy was discharged from Homespire, her daughter Traci, an officer with the Navy, presented Lori with a special badge of honor that read: “The Enforcer.”

Sandy can’t say enough about her Homespire Nurse Care Manager. “Lori is just so special—she empathizes with me and makes me laugh,” she said. “We’re both unedited people so we really get each other.” A year later, the two women still keep in touch. “We’ve become friends,” she said.

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 *This is a real client story but due to COVID we used a stock photo until we are able to get a high quality photo.