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North Bergen Woman Makes Miraculous Recovery at Alaris Health at West Orange after opportunistic Pneumonia causes Extensive Health Complications

When Selma Melendez was discharged from Alaris Health at West Orange after an extended medical and rehabilitative stay, it was nothing short of miraculous for her to walk out on her own. Only weeks before, the North Bergen resident had been too weak to breathe without a ventilator, and could not leave her bed or even brush her own hair. She stayed at the West Orange facility to further recover from pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), an opportunistic and sometimes fatal infection that strikes those with compromised immune systems.    

“Selma improved tremendously and her recovery was smoother than expected as a result of the high level of care,” says Hemant Patel, MD, Pulmonary Critical Care Specialist at Alaris Health at West Orange. “She also progressed because she was extremely motivated from the beginning and never missed an opportunity for rehabilitation.”    

Thirteen years ago when she was in her mid 20s, Ms. Melendez received a kidney transplant from a deceased donor.  Her kidneys had been damaged as a result of a childhood high blood pressure condition and she received three years of dialysis. After the transplant at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC), she was able to resume a full life that included her beloved family and pets.   

Then, in January of this year, she developed PCP and a high fever. Ms. Melendez was in such respiratory distress that she required hospitalization, a ventilator and a feeding tube.   

“I don’t remember anything from the three weeks at the hospital when I was sedated and there was concern about kidney failure,” says Ms. Melendez. “When I finally woke up, I couldn’t speak and barely could move. It was so scary.”  

A Long Road to Recovery    

When she stabilized enough, it was crucial to move her to a skilled nursing facility where she could gain strength and work to have the tracheostomy removed, as patients should not be intubated beyond a certain length of time.  In searching for the right facility, of primary consideration was the partnership between Alaris Health at West Orange and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC) to provide integrated medical care and rehabilitation services to patients who are recovering from a variety of conditions, and Ms. Melendez was transferred to the Alaris Member Health Center.    

As part of the partnership, Alaris Health at West Orange offers a dedicated Heart Failure and Transplant Specialty Unit, seven day per-week Rehabilitation Therapies, hospital-approved physician oversight, and a NBIMC Heart Failure Treatment and Transplant Program Advanced Practice onsite-Nurse.    

Ms. Melendez began the hard work of recovery with daily physical therapy and intensive pulmonary treatment. Her new team at Alaris Health at West Orange was in constant contact with her physicians at NBIMC. She improved dramatically, had the feeding tube removed, and soon the tracheostomy as well.   

“Our program is one of the first in Essex County to provide post-transplant patients with this continuity of care,” says Dr. Patel. “It reduces the length of hospital stay and allows patients to benefit from increased opportunities for rehabilitation and recovery at our facility.”    

Ms. Melendez enjoyed the weekly Pet Therapy visits, which lifted her spirits and motivated her to work hard to return to her own cats.    

“I was scared at first that I would not improve, but everyone was so kind and supportive and I felt secure there,” she said.  “In the end it was hard to leave because I felt taken care of by the entire staff. The nurses and rehab therapists especially helped me to improve and reach my goals.”    

At the end of her stay, Ms. Melendez was able to walk out the door with her husband, Bill, by her side. She has continued doing the exercises at home, and says it is “good to be home.”    

For more information, call Alaris Health at West Orange at 973-324-3000, or visit