Hospital encouraging ICU patients to be mobile in new treatment (video)

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.


It’s not easy for patients recovering in intensive care units. So Johns Hopkins hospital is trying a new approach that is getting them out of bed and moving.

The intensive care unit of a hospital is often a place where patients are on bed rest heavily sedated. It’s a way to keep them comfortable and safe.

But days weeks and months in the ICU can have long term consequences for patients. Troy Williams of Baltimore is an avid weight lifter.

He was in the ICU at Johns Hopkins hospital on life support in 2007 for a broken femur and acute respiratory distress. He was left with short term memory loss, weight loss and weakened muscles.

“I think I dropped down to 250, 225. My max as far as being able to bench press. And at the time I was benching 375 or 415 just to work out with. It took a huge toll,” said Williams.

Johns Hopkins is now trying a new, somewhat radical approach in the ICU, dubbed early mobility, even gravely ill patients are up and moving.

“If we begin to have patients awake and moving, maybe they’ll lose less muscle mass and leave ICU stronger to get back to work more quickly,” said Internist Dr. Dale Needham.

Denise Wilson of Baltimore has cystic fibrosis, complicated by pneumonia. One this day a team of staff members got Wilson ready to go mobile. Then they escorted the 42 year old along with her life support on a walk through the unit and down a hallway.

Physical Therapist Rehema Primus says normally she would see a patient after release from the ICU.

“Here we can start the process trying to get back to baseline even though in ICU,” said physical therapist Rehema Primus.

Wilson, who was back in her room in about a half hour says it’s worth it.

“It’s just giving me energy and letting people see I’m not just laying around and just croaking,” said ICU patient Denise Wilson.

“Denise is far stronger than most other patients who have had a stay in ICU for weeks. She’s much stronger because every day she’s getting up and out of bed and walking,” Needham said.

A new medical tower helped make early mobility possible. Staff members can fit it with all the equipment a patient needs to stay alive.

Early mobility takes time and teamwork, but Dr. Needham says patients always want more of it.

“They’re asking can I have more of this. Can I have this done twice a day, can I have this done three times a day,” Needham said.

Dr. Needham is conducting a study following patients for five years after they leave the hospital.