Carolinas Rehabilitation Mount Holly Helps Lamont Smith Come Back from the Brink

Your Health | one year ago

Carolinas Rehabilitation Mount Holly Helps Lamont Smith Come Back from the Brink

Given a 1% chance of surviving his COVID-19 infection, bodybuilder Lamont Smith beat the odds. After recovering, Lamont needed specialists at Carolinas Rehabilitation Mount Holly to help him regain strength.

After being hospitalized with COVID-19, given a 1% chance of surviving and losing 90 pounds from the body he spent years building through weight training, Lamont Smith is back from the brink.

The 45-year-old Salisbury native and Charlotte resident spent the summer of 2021 fighting for his life at Atrium Health Pineville on a ventilator and in a coma. His kidneys failed, and a bleeding ulcer complicated his care. But his fighting spirit, a deep love for his family and dedicated care at Atrium Health Carolinas Rehabilitation Mount Holly helped him make it all the way back.

“If it weren’t for the facility and the people at Carolinas Rehabilitation Mount Holly, I wouldn’t be who I am today,” Lamont said. “I can’t say enough about them. When I got to rehab, I was at 160 pounds, and now I’m back up to 240 and I’ve built back all my muscle.”

In early July 2021, Lamont developed breathing problems due to COVID-19 and was rushed by ambulance to Atrium Health Pineville. More than once over the course of several weeks, doctors braced his family – including his wife of 20 years and their 12-year-old daughter – for the worst. Through it all, his heart kept beating. By early September, having done all they could, doctors removed him from the ventilator and waited. On Sept. 10, he awoke from a coma.

“I opened my eyes, and by God’s miracle, my kidney count began to rebound and my lungs started working again,” Lamont said. “My family asked what had changed, and the doctors basically said, ‘We have no idea. This guy is fighting for his life.’”

He had lost so much weight that he lacked the strength to wiggle his fingers or toes. Because of the tracheotomy tube that had been placed, he had to learn how to eat and talk again, and he was confined to a wheelchair, too weak to walk. He was moved from intensive care to Pineville’s long-term acute care unit and then to Carolinas Rehabilitation Mount Holly, where board-certified doctors, nurses and therapists specialize in innovative, personalized therapy for common to complex conditions due to injury or illness. They work to improve patients’ range of motion and ability to talk.

“It was shocking how badly Lamont was affected by COVID-19 because he was previously healthy and very fit,” said Erika Sliger, staff physical therapist at Carolinas Rehabilitation Mount Holly. “He was very motivated to work hard and wanted so much to get back to doing what he was doing before.”

One morning at Carolinas Rehabilitation Mount Holly, while preparing for a bath, Lamont caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror for the first time since before he was hospitalized. Seeing his sunken face, his long hair and beard, and all the weight and muscle mass he had lost shocked him into a panic attack. Alyssa Horan, occupational therapist at Carolinas Rehabilitation Mount Holly, had to return him to his bed to stabilize him.

“Alyssa just comforted me,” Lamont said. “She said, ‘Hey, you’re alive. Look what you’ve been through. You can build your muscle back. This is what we’re here for.’ It was so encouraging to have her there to tell me this was only temporary.”

Lamont’s care team planned for him to stay 15 to 20 days at Carolinas Rehabilitation Mount Holly. His rehab went so well he was able to go home after only 9 days.

“The relationships he built made his recovery so successful,” Horan said. “His openness and sense of humor allowed us as therapists, doctors and nurses to connect with him. He had a new outlook on life after this near-death experience, and he shared his frustrations openly along with his gratitude. He often spoke about his family, which was his absolute motivation.”

Said Sliger, “He was highly motivated to push himself and receive therapy. It’s definitely a team effort here between therapy and the patient.”

Lamont returned to the gym as soon as he could after leaving rehab. When he visited Carolinas Rehabilitation Mount Holly months later to thank the staff, he had regained so much muscle and weight that they barely recognized him. His kidneys are 100% healed, but scar tissue has left his lungs at about 85% capacity, meaning he can’t run without quickly getting out of breath and he must rest between sets of weight exercises.

“I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life,” he said. “But for all I went through, that’s a small price to pay. I will be forever grateful. My family and I are in awe of the care I received.”

It was the kind of care that, combined with his heart and determination, helped bring Lamont back from the brink.