Mauricio's story

Photo of Mauricio Guevara playing soccer at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

A typical day for 28-year-old Mauricio Guevara included going to work, cooking and playing soccer. That changed when a work accident left him with life-threatening injuries.

Crushed while using a scissor lift at work, Mauricio was intubated by medical personnel and rushed to Cooper University Hospital where he was diagnosed with blunt chest trauma resulting in bruises on his lungs, fractured ribs and air and fluid outside the lungs. He also had bleeding in his head and his eyes. On top of that, he was diagnosed with COVID-19 upon admission.

Mauricio required numerous medical interventions, including a chest tube to drain the excess air and fluid around the lungs, bronchoscopies to examine the inside of the lungs and airways and a breathing tube. He also developed a blood clot in his left arm, and lung infection and pneumonia.

Mauricio’s challenges were significant – he was on a ventilator and feeding tube, and he experienced high levels of pain, reduced endurance and poor balance.

Once he stabilized, Mauricio was transferred to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation - Marlton. The Kessler physician-led team of rehabilitation nurses, physical, occupational and speech therapists and other specialists assessed his condition. Their mission was to help Mauricio regain his strength, mobility and reclaim the life he once knew with a tailored treatment plan.

The care team took note of his many goals. Mauricio wanted to return to a sense of normalcy. He wanted to walk without struggling to breathe, to engage in everyday activities and, most importantly, to play soccer once more.

At first, walking even a short distance seemed like an insurmountable feat for Mauricio. With hard work and determination, his endurance improved and he progressed from walking 20 to 30 feet to walking without limitations. With his therapists’ support, he worked on the treadmill, honed his balance and slowly but surely inched closer to his goals.

Mauricio’s physical therapy sessions included dynamic gait activities and high-intensity training sessions using the LiteGait body-weight support system. His occupational therapy included activities that helped him regain the skills and strategies to perform daily activities, such as dressing and grooming. Speech therapists worked with him to learn to speak with a trach tube and to strengthen muscles in the throat used to swallow and cough.

Mauricio's love for soccer played a central role in his therapy. More than just “playing soccer,” he was strengthening his body, planning what his body would do next, building endurance and improving coordination, all while working within his limits and dealing with a range of emotions – from frustration to joy.

By the time Mauricio left Kessler, he no longer experienced shortness of breath, his pain was better, he could eat and swallow well and was able to do soccer drills independently.