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Silva Sarkissian came to The Highlands in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, on March 11, for assistance in recovering from the flu and pneumonia, as well as physical weakness.


Sarkissian had a complex medical history that also included diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, high blood pressure, renal disease, orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when standing up) and chronic ischemic heart disease. When she arrived, she was receiving antiviral and antibiotic treatment, and she became short of breath with a small amount of activity.


Randy Flematti, a registered respiratory therapist who sees patients at The Highlands and its sister facility, Life Care Center of Leominster, oversaw Sarkissian’s respiratory care with the help of facility therapists and nurses. He used supplemental oxygen, inhaled bronchodilators, humidity therapy and positive expiratory pressure to help her get the secretions out of her lungs.


“Randy was a good teacher and helped me with my medicines,” Sarkissian said.


Sarkissian worked with physical and occupational therapists to increase her strength, stamina, mobility and independence. When she started, she could walk but needed frequent rest breaks and could not manage climbing stairs or cooking.


“All disciplines combined efforts to make substantial gains in returning Silva to her prior level of independence,” said Flematti.


At the end of two weeks, Sarkissian’s health had improved. She was able to get off the supplemental oxygen and walk up to 150 feed with a walker. She could go up and down eight stairs with a railing and had mastered her ability to set an appropriate pace for her activities. She was able to take care of herself again.


Sarkissian returned home on March 23.


“I feel stronger and safe to go home,” she said. “The Highlands was so good to me. The nurses and aides were always there for me.”