Specialized Acute Care Unit Inspires Patient To Enter The Healthcare Field
By Sam Nimah
Katie Hooks, then 22 years old, was leading a fairly ordinary life until an unexpected turn of events changed everything. One morning, she woke up to find her face extremely swollen, which set off a chain of events that led her to the TriVent Healthcare Special Care Unit at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Hospital.
Hooks initially believed this to be an allergic reaction. However, the swelling eventually spread throughout her body, making it increasingly difficult for her to breathe. She also lost her ability to move independently. After severely struggling with shortness of breath one night, Katie was rushed to UAB Hospital where she would eventually be placed on a ventilator to aid her breathing.
The physicians at UAB soon diagnosed Hooks with scleroderma and systemic lupus overlap with associated myositis. These autoimmune diseases caused inflammation and damage not only to her skin, but also to her internal organs, muscles, and lungs. After three months of intense treatment, Hooks was admitted to TriVent Healthcare’s Special Care Unit (SCU) at UAB. By this time, she was completely immobile and required round-the-clock assistance.
When she first entered TriVent’s SCU, Hooks was filled with fear, depression, and confusion. However, with the support and trust she built with her acute care team, Hooks began to make progress. Her respiratory and physical therapy teams carefully worked together to find therapeutic interventions that would improve her mobility while protecting her skin’s integrity.
Hooks’s journey was not easy. Through her hard work and the unwavering support of the TriVent team, Hooks took her first steps towards recovery. Each step she took was a testament to her perseverance and faith in the healing process. Gradually, she regained muscle strength, skin texture, and joint flexibility, and no longer needed supplemental oxygen.
Her experience with TriVent ended up inspiring Hooks to pursue a career in the medical field. In fact, during her third month in the hospital, she was accepted into the respiratory program at Jacksonville State University. Hooks deferred to focus on her health and the university saved her seat in the program for the following year, which gave her time to fully recover. A year after having been a patient that received specialized care, Hooks joined the respiratory therapist program with a unique perspective.
Now in her fourth semester of the program at Jacksonville State University, Hooks plans to return to the TriVent Healthcare SCU at UAB Hospital in August to complete clinical rounds towards her degree. She will now be a member of the very same team that took care of her while being treated – both advocating for and motivating patients to keep fighting.
“I know what these patients are thinking and feeling,” says Hooks. “You feel like your life isn’t going anywhere, but I’m living proof that these patients have so much more life to live. I want to help these patients stay positive and motived…just like my respiratory therapist did for me.”
Having the experience as a patient turned practitioner enables Hooks to understand the role of a respiratory therapist on another level, allowing her to better understand everything the TriVent Healthcare SCU team did throughout her recovery. This also provides her with an unparalleled connection to the respiratory therapy program and enables her to form strong bonds with her patients.
For the TriVent staff at UAB, witnessing Hooks’s recovery and growth has been truly rewarding. They witnessed her reinvent herself and embrace a new chapter in her life. Hooks’s recovery serves as a testament to the power of determination and the incredible impact of a supportive and dedicated acute care team.
Upon graduation, Hooks plans to work in a children’s hospital as a respiratory therapist, helping young patients get healthy and stay happy.