Mary Buechler

When a person develops a serious illness or injury, such as COVID-19 pneumonia, they often lose their ability to live their “normal” life. Critical care hospitals, such as Vibra Hospital of the Central Dakotas, seek to help each patient return to their “normal.” But, how each person defines normal will vary, so an individualized care plan is essential to help each patient reach their unique goals.

For Mary Buechler, “normal” meant spending time with her family and attending her grandkids’ sporting events. She enjoyed many activities such as playing cards, building with Legos, and putting together jigsaw puzzles. Mary also liked to work on DIY and home improvement projects and found pleasure being outside where she could take in the plants and flowers.

COVID-19 threatened not only Mary’s activities but her very life itself. Diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia, Mary was admitted to the ICU at the acute care hospital. Her condition progressively worsened, and her respiratory status failed to improve. The hospital called Mary’s family to make a difficult decision on what would happen next.

Knowing her mother was a fighter, Mary’s daughter, Miranda, instructed the ICU to do everything they could to save her life.

Sure enough, Mary pulled through. Once she was medically stable, Mary transferred to Vibra Hospital of the Central Dakotas. At Vibra, Mary would receive the specialized care she needed to continue progressing in her recovery. Mary’s interdisciplinary care team built an individualized care plan based on her three main goals at Vibra: wean off of high flow oxygen, have her tracheostomy tube removed, and progress from tube feedings to a regular diet.

Though Mary was now moving in the right direction, she still faced a difficult journey ahead. Before arriving at Vibra, Mary had spent 71 days in the hospital, including 51 days in the ICU. As a result, she was very weak and could not eat, drink, feed herself, perform grooming tasks, sit on the edge of the bed, or stand.

But Mary was well equipped for the journey. Vibra’s talented and diverse staff provided the excellent clinical care and education she required. In addition, Mary’s family and friends offered great support and encouragement. And there’s that bit about being a fighter: Mary expressed a consistent determination to achieve her goals.

“I just tried to stay positive,” Mary said.

All these factors culminated in substantial progress for Mary during her stay at Vibra. She worked with physical and occupational therapies each day of the week and can now stand at her bedside and complete her activities of daily living with minimal assistance. Speech therapy helped Mary improve her swallow function, enabling her to eat a regular diet. Respiratory therapy worked with Mary to reduce her oxygen needs, and her tracheostomy has been removed.

Mary’s experience at Vibra is a constant reminder that she can conquer challenges.

“Respiratory therapy has been positive, and wound care has been great,” Mary said, reflecting on her stay. “Kyla (OT) sees my ability and is encouraging. Hilda (RT) is a very positive person, and Leslie was great with wound care. There are too many staff to list that made an impact on my recovery.”

Mary defines success as “making progress” — something she certainly achieved during her time at Vibra. Having gained strength and self-confidence, Mary moved on to the next phase of her recovery, discharging to Sanford Inpatient Rehabilitation in Fargo. There, she will work on making further progress with her activities of daily living and transfers.

“I’m looking forward to spending time with my grandkids and family. And meeting my great-nephew, who was born in December. Our newest family member!”