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The Denver Post: CU Buffs Announcer Larry Zimmer' Rehabilitation Timeline

CU Buffs announcer Larry Zimmer's hospitalization and rehabilitation timeline By John Meyer

A timeline of Larry Zimmer's hospitalization and rehabilitation:

Oct. 4: Zimmer collapses at his home on Lookout Mountain and is rushed by ambulance to St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood. He remains in intensive care for five days.

Oct. 9: Showing improvement, Zimmer is moved to the general population of the hospital. He is able to talk and walk. Soon he will lose the ability to do both.

Oct. 14: Doctors determine he is aspirating, causing food and drink to enter his lungs. Blood clots are diagnosed in his right arm because of the "pick line" used to administer drugs. It is removed. Breathing has become difficult. A tube is inserted to help him breathe, and he has surgery to insert a feeding tube into his stomach. He will not eat again until January.

Oct. 22: Zimmer is diagnosed with a lung infection and moved back to ICU, in critical condition. The infection will worsen, and he will soon be wearing an oxygen mask 24 hours a day. He also has a hematoma on his vocal cords.

Oct. 25: A tracheotomy is performed. Blood clots remain a concern, and Zimmer is losing blood, probably because of blood thinners.

Nov. 2: Zimmer is given a blood transfusion.

Nov. 7: Zimmer's condition has improved and he is transferred to Select Specialty Hospital, a long-term acute care facility located at Porter Hospital. In his first days there, he is examined by a team of doctors, including David Opperman, who says the hematoma on Zimmer's vocal cords has healed but the left cord is paralyzed. He is confident he can bring back Zimmer's voice, but he can't begin treatments until Zimmer is off the ventilator. That comes two weeks later.

Nov. 20: Opperman administers the first of three injections into the paralyzed left vocal cord designed to move it into a position where it can come in contact with the other vocal cord and create speech — a temporary fix until the cord regains function on its own. Therapy is begun to help with swallowing. Shortly after, Zimmer takes the first "swallow test" and does not pass. The vocal cords are not functioning in the swallowing process, and the epiglottis is not functioning correctly.

Nov. 26: Another setback as a staph infection is detected in the lungs. Antibiotic treatment is begun.

Dec. 5: Breathing has improved to the point where the tracheotomy tube can be removed.

Dec. 10: Zimmer is moved to PowerBack Rehabilitation in Lakewood, still unable to eat or drink. Therapy will include speech, physical therapy (to learn again to sit, stand and walk) and occupational therapy designed to help in skills such as using the toilet, taking a shower and getting dressed. That night Zimmer experiences severe pain in his right leg and is given pain medication.

Dec. 11: Dr. Christine Wildeman (then PowerBack's medical director) is concerned about the leg pain but is more concerned about what appears to be a deterioration of Zimmer's condition.

Dec. 12: Leg pain continues, and Wildeman determines Zimmer is "bleeding out." He is taken by ambulance back to the St. Anthony emergency room for a blood transfusion and is admitted to ICU. A scan shows internal bleeding and a hematoma in the leg. Zimmer will receive four units of blood over two days.

Dec. 17: A neurological exam of the right leg shows pressure from the hematoma apparently injured a major nerve and the nerves in the leg went dormant. It shows the nerves are not dead, however, and feeling probably will return eventually. While at St. Anthony's, speech therapy is continued, and a second swallow test is given. Zimmer fails.

Dec. 20: Zimmer returns to PowerBack.

Jan. 8: Opperman administers the second injection to the left vocal cord. Speech therapy continues to strengthen throat muscles so Zimmer can pass the swallow test and be allowed to eat and drink.

Jan. 9: Zimmer's physical condition has advanced so he can sit up in bed, and he works with a device that allows him to stand for the first time. He takes his first steps since collapsing, walking a few feet with a walker.

Jan. 15: Zimmer finally passes the third swallow test, and is cleared to eat food and to drink for the first time since October. His first meal is what was available for lunch that day at PowerBack: a pulled pork sandwich and tater tots.

Jan. 27: Zimmer is able to walk from his room to the lobby with the walker and works on an anti-gravity treadmill.

Feb. 8: Zimmer is able to walk up and down stairs and get in and out of the car.

Feb. 19: Zimmer receives the third and final injection into the left vocal cord.

Feb. 20: Zimmer returns home for the first time in 139 days since he collapsed Oct. 4. Home physical therapy begins.

March 30: Outpatient physical therapy begins at Layne Physical Therapy in Golden with therapist Peggy Coit. Sessions are twice weekly, and Zimmer progresses from walking with the walker to walking with a cane, and finally to walking without aid.

April 8: An exam by Opperman indicates another injection is unnecessary because the left vocal cord has begun to function on its own (about 10 percent of normal). This is a major turning point.

May 7: Opperman determines the vocal cords are working normally, and surgery will not be necessary.

May 11: Weekly speech therapy sessions begin with Kathe Perez.

July 2: Zimmer and CU announce he will return to the broadcast booth in the fall.

Sept. 12: Zimmer returns to the broadcast booth as CU hosts Massachusetts.

— John Meyer, The Denver Post

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