Healthy Returns

Hospital program aids multiple trauma patient’s recovery.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

The staff at Encompass Health accommodated all of Zander’s needs.

On what started out as a typical Saturday last year, Alexander “Zander” Vaglivielo finished lunch with a buddy and headed out on the road. Shortly thereafter, a car suddenly pulled out in front of Zander’s truck. In an instant, the truck flipped over and smashed into a telephone pole, leaving Zander, 18, severely injured.

“The impact crushed my left hip and left elbow, and broke my back,” says Zander, who also suffered a series of internal injuries, among them a lacerated kidney and lung. He suffered several broken ribs as well, and his spleen was so damaged, it had to be removed. Zander’s condition was serious.

“I was in the hospital for two weeks,” he relates, “including almost a week in the intensive care unit.”

“When Zander went to the hospital, he was in pretty bad shape with his injuries, and he was on a ventilator,” states Zander’s mother, Stacey. “The doctor explained that basically, everything in his stomach got shoved up into his chest on impact, and then his diaphragm exploded. They had to pull everything back up out of there to stabilize him.”

At the hospital, Zander underwent several surgeries to treat his injuries and stabilize his condition. Once stabilized, he moved to Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of the Treasure Coast in Vero Beach to begin rehabilitation.

“We chose Encompass Health because my grandma works there, and my grandpa’s been in the hospital there a few times,” Zander states. “We knew it was a good place.”

Encompass Health is an acute-level rehabilitation hospital. It’s the only facility in the area that offers that level of care. It also has a specialized multiple trauma rehabilitation program for patients such as Zander.   

Challenges Addressed

“When a person suffers multiple traumas, it’s a life-altering experience,” observes Dawn Bucaj, RN, BSN, senior rehab liaison at Encompass Health. “Patients with multiple traumas require a combination of approaches that address more than one challenge at a time.

“Our multiple trauma rehabilitation program uses a wide range of therapies and technologies to tackle multiple challenges. The program’s treatment team designs a comprehensive therapy plan for each patient based on their specific needs. By following the plan, patients can reach their recovery potential.”

The multiple trauma treatment team is led by a physician who directs specially trained clinicians, including rehab-certified nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists. Each patient’s recovery is different, so the rehab approaches taken by the Encompass Health multiple trauma team are individualized.

“We tailor a fully coordinated program of rehab treatments to ensure each patient receives the best care for their particular needs,” Dawn informs. “The approach we take is personalized to the patient’s condition and abilities.

“Our patients receive daily visits by two physicians and twenty-four-hour rehab nursing care. Their tailored rehab programs include three hours of therapy per day, every day. Therapy is started based on the patient’s current level of ability.”

The multiple trauma treatment team works with patients and their families to educate, train and help patients perform daily activities.

“The treatment team believes it’s particularly important for patients to be close to their support systems,” Dawn explains. “That’s why we partner with the patients and their loved ones to set attainable goals.”

As a hospital, Encompass Health provides complete inpatient care as well as rehabilitation services. In that way, it is unlike most nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.

“That difference leads to greater patient satisfaction and superior outcomes,” Dawn says. “To receive the advantages of Encompass Health’s multiple trauma rehabilitation program, it’s important for patients and families to ask for us by name.”

Atypical Patient

At Encompass Health, Zander received both occupational and physical therapy. Throughout his stay, he was confined to a wheelchair, so his therapists focused on strengthening his upper body and teaching him ways to manage his daily activities from the wheelchair.

“When I arrived at Encompass Health, I couldn’t walk and wasn’t allowed to put pressure on my leg,” Zander remembers. “The therapists taught me how to transfer from a wheelchair into a car, bed and shower, and how to do other, similar activities.”

At the time of his accident, Zander was 17. He wasn’t a typical patient at Encompass Health, but that wasn’t an issue for him or the staff.

“I was a little younger than most patients at Encompass Health, but the therapists were really nice, and everybody made me feel comfortable and at home,” he reports. “I was at Encompass Health for a week.”

“The weekend Zander was at Encompass Health was homecoming weekend, which was really difficult for him,” Stacey describes. “I got permission and held homecoming for him and his girlfriend right there. I decorated his entire room and had the event catered by Outback Steakhouse®. The staff at Encompass Health was just so accommodating.”

Today, Zander is healthy again and pursuing a career in construction. He recalls his time at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of the Treasure Coast fondly.

“My overall experience at Encompass Health was very good,” he exudes. “I’ll go back if I ever need to.”

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