Health Plus: Eastern Iowa woman relearns how to talk & walk - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Health Plus: Eastern Iowa woman relearns how to talk & walk

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

A rare illness changed one eastern Iowa woman's life completely.

She could no longer walk or talk.

How rehab through a local hospital gave her life back, in Health Plus.

What Shawn Barfels thought was a harmless virus last summer, turned out to be a rare and some times fatal form of pneumonia called Legionnaire's disease.

"Right after she got it the outbreak in Chicago (happened) where I think 10 people died from it," said Shawn's husband, Wayne. 

The 39-year-old Waterloo woman went from being an active wife and mother to a patient in intensive care who could no longer walk or talk from multiple strokes she experienced.

"Her lungs were so bad that her kidney and liver had shut down wasn't getting the oxygen to them so they had to wait to get the dialysis off to do a CT scan so they found out she had a stroke," said Wayne.

Ongoing speech therapy at Covenant Rehabilitation in Waterloo is restoring Shawn's ability to communicate.

"After her trach was removed and she was able to voice herself she realized, hey I can do this and my communication is meaningful and we can keep the progress going on it. So she went from head nods to being able to speak words and phrases and we are on our way to sentences," said her speech therapist, Gena Aguilera.

Her progress through both speech and physical therapy has been remarkable.

"But we've got quite a ways to go but the difference is that she is willing to work."

For her husband Wayne and the rest of her family, Shawn's recovery has been an answered prayer.

"I didn't know she'd be this far this fast by any means--but I had faith," said Wayne.

Shawn and Wayne recently celebrated their 14-year wedding anniversary, happily with Shawn back home.

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