Beyond Rehabilitation

A higher level of care for patients with complex medical needs

On March 23, David Mike woke up in the middle of the night with what he thought was acid indigestion. He didn’t think much about it until a day or so later, when it still bothered him. That’s when he started thinking the discomfort might be something more.

Photo courtesy of HealthSouth Treasure Coast Rehabilitation Hospital

David walks out of HealthSouth escorted by Jamie, left, and Kerri, right.

“My wife got nervous and took me to the local hospital,” relates David. “They diagnosed a heart attack and determined I needed four stents. Everything went fine for about four days, but then the mitral valve in my heart blew out.”
David underwent surgery to replace the faulty valve, but he suffered complications following the procedure. Within days, his condition deteriorated to the point he required an emergency airlift to Florida Hospital in Orlando.
By this time, David’s situation was grave, and he was placed in intensive care. The staff at the hospital even discussed adding him to the recipient list for a heart transplant. But they weren’t giving up on him.
“One of the doctors decided to try a few different treatments,” reports David. “Suddenly, my heart began to improve. Then, it was okay, and my replaced valve was okay, too. They gradually weaned me off the ventilator and other machines, and I slowly began to recover.”
In total, David spent 50 days in the hospital. He lost 40 pounds and most of his muscle mass. He needed rehabilitation to restore his strength and mobility.
“My wife did some research,” states David, “and chose HealthSouth Treasure Coast Rehabilitation Hospital in Vero Beach.” She learned, as a hospital, HealthSouth could care for David’s medical needs as well as his rehabilitation.
“We provide rehab services for three hours per day, and patients receive daily medical oversight by two physicians – a physiatrist, or rehab doctor, and an internist,” notes Dawn Bucaj, RN, BSN, senior rehab liaison at HealthSouth. “This allows us to care for any complex medical conditions patients are experiencing.”

Coordinated Therapy

When David arrived at HealthSouth, he was so weak he could not walk. Jamie Freese, COTA, certified occupational therapy assistant, and Kerri Beams, PTA, physical therapy assistant, were determined to see him leave the hospital on his feet.
“David was very deconditioned and his endurance was low,” describes Jamie. “The main objective of our treatment was to increase his strength and endurance so he could return to his everyday life.
“In occupational therapy, we focused on activities of daily living, including getting up and out of bed, getting dressed and getting into and out of the bathroom. I had him do light resistive exercises and some cardiovascular conditioning on an arm bicycle.”
David was in a wheelchair when he entered HealthSouth, and his main goal was to walk again. Before he could work toward that goal, however, he had to face a health problem standing in his way. HealthSouth has full-time physicians on staff who can manage patients’ medical conditions.
“David had heart trouble, and there were days he couldn’t get out of bed because his blood pressure was affected by the change of position,” explains Kerri. “It took him some time to build up his tolerance just to be able to sit up in a chair and have normal blood pressure.
“The doctor changed some of his medications to correct his blood pressure issue. After those medication changes, David’s tolerance went up, and we were able to do more activities.”
“He sat down and looked at the medications I was on and decided maybe some of them were causing the problem,” corroborates David. “Then, he took me off a couple of the meds. The next day, I was able to stand up without my blood pressure going down.”
Physical therapy for David focused primarily on activities to improve mobility and balance. To increase his strength and balance, Kerri had David do standing exercises in the parallel bars. To strengthen his cardiovascular endurance, David spent time using specialized exercise equipment.
“David made a lot of progress during the eleven days of therapy he received at HealthSouth,” observes Jamie. “He wasn’t a sick guy to begin with. The heart attack was a big surprise to him. He wanted to go back home and get even stronger, so he worked hard. He was really motivated to get better.”
“Usually, patients have to be wheeled out of the hospital in a wheelchair,” states David. “Kerri and Jamie were so pleased with my progress, they let me walk out, escorted by the two of them.”
“On his last day of therapy, we thought, He’s been in the hospital for almost two months. He was so sick at one point, he might not have lived. Wouldn’t it be nice if he could walk out the door,” confirms Kerri.
For patients like David who have complex medical needs, HealthSouth Treasure Coast Rehabilitation Hospital can provide total care, including on-site physicians and 24-hour certified nursing care. Other rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes can’t compare.
“Our patients deserve that level of care, and HealthSouth is the only provider on the Treasure Coast who can provide it,” offers Dawn. “It is important for patients or their loved ones to ask for us by name.”

Confident Recovery

With the complete care provided by the physicians and therapists at HealthSouth, David was able to overcome his medical issue and his physical frailties. He regained enough strength, mobility and endurance to return home and begin rebuilding his life.

Photo courtesy of HealthSouth Treasure Coast Rehabilitation Hospital

David strolls the boardwalk in Vero Beach two days after his release from the hospital.

“HealthSouth got me back on my feet,” confirms David. “I went through physical and occupational therapy, and the therapists were outstanding. They were very patient. Kerri and Jamie pushed me, but they pushed me with love.
“Within eleven days, I was able to be released from HealthSouth, and I was released feeling confident I would recover. The therapists told me there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do as long as I followed their instructions and took my time. So far, they’ve been absolutely right.”
David progressed quickly during his time at HealthSouth, and he continues to improve on his own at home. He’s proud of what he has achieved.
“I’m doing pretty good,” he reports. “I do the exercises the therapists gave me to do. At HealthSouth, I was doing one set. Now, I’m doing four every day. I’m much more confident on my feet. I can walk three hundred yards at a time now, with a walker.
“I’m also not a burden to my wife. She takes care of me, but she doesn’t have to do everything for me. I can go to the bathroom myself, and get around the house myself. I’m on my way back to a normal life.”
HealthSouth was chosen because it offers more complete care than other rehabilitation centers and nursing homes. HealthSouth can care for patients like David who have complex medical needs as well as rehabilitation needs. David especially liked it because of the people who work there.
“I recommend HealthSouth to everybody who needs rehabilitation,” he says. “The nurses are good, and the therapists are exceptional. Everybody there cared about me and wanted me to recover, and that was very important.
“I’m back on the right side of the tracks, and I’m going to make it, thanks to HealthSouth.”

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