Wife, mom of two young daughters, and financial controller for a Fortune 100 company, Carrie Jobe is a self-proclaimed ‘working momma and boss lady.’ When a series of fainting spells led to a benign brain tumor diagnosis, she didn’t intend to let it slow her down for too long.
“The plan was that I would have the craniotomy to remove the tumor, stay in the hospital for 4-5 days, then recover at home for about a month before returning to life as usual,” said Carrie. “However, when I woke up from surgery, the recovery nurse asked ‘Can you tell me your name? Can you tell me where you are?’ When I tried to reply, my speech was severely impaired. I instantly knew something was really wrong.”
Carrie’s condition deteriorated while she was hospitalized. Her lung partially collapsed, and she was put on a ventilator followed by a tracheotomy and a feeding tube. She was in the Neuro ICU of a Houston-area hospital for 34 days.
“From there, I transferred to have physical, occupational and speech therapy during inpatient rehab at that hospital where I tried to recover from a daunting list of challenges: tongue, throat and vocal cord paralysis, debilitating headaches, nystagmus (bouncing vision), blurred vision, dangerously low blood pressure, an impaired vestibular system…all combined with infections, pneumonia (3 times), drug reactions, additional feeding tube surgeries and a 40-pound weight loss. After 74 days, I was finally ready to go home with the help of a home health nurse.”
When she arrived home, her muscles were weak, and her lung capacity was diminished. She also had multiple medications to manage, breathing treatments multiple times per day, round the clock tracheostomy suctioning and cleaning, and she had to learn how to use her feeding pump, which ran continuously.. After 4 months with home health, she began going to therapy at TIRR Memorial Hermann Outpatient Rehabilitation – Memorial City.
“I chose TIRR Memorial Hermann because it’s the best, plain and simple,” said Carrie. “I realized I needed more targeted and specialized therapy. I knew it was time to go to TIRR Memorial Hermann where I had speech, occupational (with a focus on vestibular), and physical therapy.”
For OT and PT, Carrie wanted to feel comfortable and safe in her own body and in her surroundings. With an impaired vestibular system, she felt dizzy a lot and had trouble judging space and distance, causing her to trip or drop things.
"I first met Carrie in May of 2020,” said her physical therapist, Nicole Buongiorne. “At that time, she was having marked dizziness and imbalance throughout the day. She and I were able to work together for 2 months, with our emphasis being on oculomotor activities to normalize her eye movements, vestibular exercises to minimize her dizziness with head and body turns, and balance activities to maximize her ability to perform balance reactions to avoid falls. In her time in PT, she achieved significant gains in balance, both standing still and while walking, as well as marked improvement in endurance for walking."
“For speech, my main goal was to be able to swallow well enough to manage my own saliva,” said Carrie. “I just wanted to be able to talk without drooling, sleep without choking or waking every 15 minutes to suction and go out in public without carrying my suction machine.”
At that point, it seemed as though Carrie would never eat by mouth again, and she was trying to accept that as she concentrated on her other rehabilitation goals.
“When I first began working with Carrie, she was not eating by mouth and she had very little lingual movement and her tongue was significantly atrophied, which made it difficult to understand her when she was speaking,” said her speech language pathologist, Amy Greebon. “When we started swallowing therapy, we completed a Modified Barium Swallow (MBS) and though the test indicated little to no ability for her to swallow, I still thought I could work with her to make some improvements, initially we were hoping to improve saliva management to decrease her reliance on her suction machine.”
“We did intensive oral and pharyngeal therapy which required her to do intensive home exercises as well,” said Amy. “We started with working to stimulate her swallow and then started trials of small amounts of liquids in various consistencies. Little by little she showed improvements – it was amazing, after she swallowed something for the first time we were jumping up and down!”
After months of intensive therapy, Amy completed another MBS, which showed significant improvement in Carrie’s swallow function. Amy continued to work with Carrie to progress her diet and to continue to improve her swallow function.
It took months of work, but Carrie is now on a 100% oral diet. She can enjoy ice cream with her kids and coffee with friends. She and her husband went to see a movie, and Carrie was finally able to leave her suction machine at home.
“We are now focusing more on improving her speech,” said Amy. “Something just told me that this could happen for Carrie, and I could not be happier with her progress.”
Throughout this experience, Carrie began baking.
“The process of baking and the joy that it brought to other people was very therapeutic,” said Carrie. “I found healing in baking. I started baking more and more, and it turns out that I’m actually really good at it.”
She now has customers who purchase her cakes, and she has shared her story on social media.
“Several of the other speech therapists that I had before coming to TIRR Memorial Hermann just gave up on me when they realized that I was a unique patient that didn’t fit inside their box,” said Carrie. “Not at TIRR Memorial Hermann though! The therapists at TIRR Memorial Hermann think outside the box to create a therapy plan that fit me and my needs. I know with certainty that if I had not come to TIRR Memorial Hermann, I would not be eating today or possibly ever again.”
For the 34th consecutive year, TIRR Memorial Hermann is recognized as the best rehabilitation hospital in Texas and No. 4 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report's "Best Rehabilitation Hospitals" in America.Learn More