Local woman finally accepted into physical rehab after 28 rejections, working to walk again

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — In May, 10 On Your Side first told you about 30-year-old Charea Armstrong.

In March 2018 while in New Orleans, Charea suffered an attack from an untreated overactive thyroid. Complicating that, she went into cardiac arrest with insufficient oxygen levels for about 40 minutes. The brain damage causes mobility issues. She can’t walk and has limited arm movement, but she is not paralyzed.

Her aunt Tonnica Armstrong flew her home at great expense, and put her hospital bed up in the living room. Armstrong has neither the resources, nor the handicap-accessible facilities to properly care for her.

Tonnica called us for help, and in May we reported on Charea being rejected from rehab. But following our report, Charea’s story changed.

The last time we saw Charea on May 23, she was crying, flat on her back at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. She was there for treatment of intestinal blockage. Almost two months later, it was a different picture as she was receiving physical rehabilitation at Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital. Charea is now smiling.

We walked in her Lake Taylor room, and could not believe it. She looks fantastic, especially taking into account what she’s been through. “I think I have improved a lot. I feel better. I feel more healthy, more limber, more flexible.”

Charea’s problem was she simply needed someone to believe she could get better.

Tonnica again showed the list of 28 rehabilitation centers that rejected Charea. “They say she doesn’t qualify for skilled rehabilitation … where am I suppose to take her?

Lake Taylor agreed to take Charea, and then AetnaHealth Insurance agreed to cover the cost of physical rehabilitation. Tonnica, who has taken care of Charea for months in her own home, now has help.

“I think it was you contacting the facilities, and that sort of put them under a little pressure to get the ball rolling a little faster, and to get them to say we will take her. I really think it was 10 On Your Side,” Tonnica said.

And now there is hope for Charea now that Lake Taylor believes in her. “I’m working on getting stronger and stretching out my hand. I’m stretching out my arms and muscles to get them loose too.”

Her hands in splints are now straightening out. The dots are getting connected.

Lake Taylor Director of Admissions Kim Limbaugh helped make it happen. “We created a plan that gave a better picture for Aetna to see what her potential actually was,” Limbaugh said.

So now every day Charea takes a wheelchair to the Lake Taylor Rehab gym, “I am able to bend my knees now a lot better in progression, and one day will walk,” Charea says with confidence.

“Let’s try to turn your leg a little bit. OK, right there,” says Charea’s physical therapist Suzanne May. “Can you try pushing down your foot into my hand? There you go, good.”

You can tell Charea’s long journey is painful as she winces with pain. “We are trying to help loosen up some of the tissue and the tightness and muscles and everything is kind of tightened up,” May says. Muscle atrophy has certainly set in after a year of being bedridden.

Charea was reminded by Suzanne that a little bit of progress is good progress. “We are working right now getting her a power chair, one that is customized for her so that she can use it with her hands just to help her quality of life and to help her with her independence.”

Charea calls it her work in progress. Suzanne says, “The best thing about her is her motivation, and her being positive throughout the whole thing makes all the difference.”

Charea is improving on her core strength, with a stronger hand grip. She’s able to use her hands to call for help on the call bell for assistance, instead of using her cheek. Charea says “10 On Your Side was absolutely on my side. You have tremendously helped me change my life and blessed me with the chance to improve daily … in the long run, I hope to be able to stand and walk and at the end of this journey that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If I keep working hard, it will happen.”