Patient Stories

Clay M.

Clay Mayhood Sheltering Arms Institute PatientClay Mayhood is the ultimate outdoor enthusiast. He had plans to hike California’s John Muir Trail in September, but after a 20-mile trek in late June, he developed flu-like symptoms. Within days his condition exponentially worsened, and soon he could no longer use his arms or legs. The complicating factor was he was in Tennessee—900 miles from his home in Richmond without resources, family, or anything familiar.

He landed in an ICU in a Memphis hospital with a debilitating form of polyneuropathy—something like Guillain Barre Syndrome. He was too unstable to transport back to Virginia so his wife, Madeline, flew to Memphis. “It was terrifying,” she says, “like a multi-system cyclone hit him right out of the blue.”

After weeks in the hospital, Clay began to stabilize, but he would need intensive inpatient rehab to relearn what we all take for granted–walking, holding a fork, using a phone. Madeline knew the Sheltering Arms culture of excellence well, and knew it would be his best chance at recovery. In addition to working in the hospital’s PR department in the 1990s, she had multi-generational ties to Sheltering Arms — her father and grandfather, both physicians, made rounds at the main hospital when it was downtown and her mother was on the Junior Board.

“Getting Clay back to Virginia for physical rehab in the middle of a pandemic was a daunting process,” she says, “but the Sheltering Arms team made it happen. They were tenacious. Once one door closed, I’d get a call that they were exploring another option.” Finally, Clay was transferred. “I walked into his room at Sheltering Arms Institute, and the view nearly brought me to my knees,” Madeline recalls. “I saw nothing but green — a giant window looking out on the most beautiful trees I’d ever seen with birdhouses along the sidewalk. After spending a month in hospitals with views of gravel rooftops, the contrast was profound.” Both she and Clay applaud Sheltering Arms for acknowledging the healing power of nature. “The view alone was a giant step in his recovery process.” Clay concluded his inpatient stay at SAI in late August and is now in outpatient therapy at Bon Air.

“The therapists have been amazing,” Clay says. “They are always full of surprises and look for ways to challenge me every day.” He notes the entire staff has been “nothing short of wonderful. I’d wake up every day at SAI and I knew Becca and Ben would have me doing things I’d never done before given the extent of my limitations. It made for a great day. And I saw tangible improvements in my motor skills.” His rehab team at Bon Air is equally dedicated. While hiking the John Muir Trail may not happen in 2020, both Clay and Madeline look forward to resuming their active lifestyle.

“That first day at SAI, after getting Clay settled in his room, was the first time in weeks I could take a deep breath. I finally had hope. I knew Clay was safe, and I knew he was exactly where he needed to be. On my way home, I walked through the SAI atrium and looked up at the names suspended from the ceiling—the donors behind Sheltering Arms. I saw names of so many generous people—friends, family, and strangers alike—and have never been so grateful. Sheltering Arms really has given us the power to overcome.”