Johnny Purkey with Lori Williams, physical therapist assistant, left, and Jesse Castillo, occupational therapist assistant, right

Johnny Purkey needed rehabilitation badly after having bowel surgery for bleeding in his digestive tract.


“When I came to The Heritage Center [in Morristown, Tennessee], I could hardly move or eat,” said Purkey. “At one point, I was diagnosed with pneumonia along with fractured ribs and was afraid of what the future held.”


Purkey couldn’t walk when he arrived on Oct. 1, 2016. He couldn’t get out of bed on his own or take care of his grooming or even get around in a wheelchair by himself. He had to have total assistance to get dressed and bathe.


Physical and occupational therapists worked with Purkey to help him regain strength, mobility, endurance and his self-care skills. At first, he had to use a sliding board to get from one surface to another. Speech therapists helped him improve his swallowing for eating and drinking.


“Even some of the smaller daily tasks were hard to perform at first, but the rehab team assured me that my hard work would pay off – and it did,” Purkey said. “When I noticed I was getting stronger, I knew I was going to get better. Everyone was very helpful in my recovery process.”


Therapists used the Omnicycle and resistive exercises to help Purkey work on lower-body strengthening, and they did standing balance activities to improve his stability for walking. In speech therapy, he also gradually improved his swallowing to where he could eat regular food again.


“I can walk, bathe, dress and eat again with so much more confidence,” Purkey said. “I am not afraid to try new challenges. I will forever be grateful. Thanks to all and to God.”


Purkey returned home on Nov. 23, independent in his self-care tasks and only requiring assistance with stairs.