Hospital Boasts Certified Stroke Rehab

Comprehensive team offers a higher level of care than a skilled nursing facility.

Dr. Coelho lifting weight

After rehab, Dr. Coelho has regained the strength to return to weightlifting.

As he embarked on his third year of medical school, Dr. Daniel Coelho had an important decision to make regarding his future.

A multisport athlete in high school, Dr. Coelho once leaned toward practicing orthopedic surgery. However, he lost interest while learning the basics as an undergrad, so he faced the challenge of charting a new direction.

“I wound up choosing anesthesia,” he says. “There was nothing else I really liked, so it was a process of exclusion. But it’s proven to be a good choice.”

Since completing his residency at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York in 1991, Dr. Coelho has spent more than 30 years providing patients with perioperative care.

“I watch surgeons perform surgery for a living, and I can tell you from having done that for the last 30 years, I would not have made a very good orthopedist,” the anesthesiologist shares. “So, like I said, I made the right choice.”

Dr. Coelho was recently forced to make another important choice. This one pertained to his recovery from a pair of debilitating strokes experienced within a few days of each other in February. The strokes were brought on by blood clots in his brain.

“Prior to suffering the first stroke, I had been sick for about a week,” Dr. Coelho reports. “I eventually went to the hospital to get things checked out, and it was there that it was discovered that my heart was pumping very poorly.

“I was suffering from atrial fibrillation, so I was admitted to the hospital to fix that. While the doctors were taking an echocardiogram to look at my heart, I suffered the first stroke, which was caused by a small blood clot that was taken out of my brain.

“Two days later, while recovering in the intensive care unit, I had another stroke. I went into heart failure and wound up on a ventilator for the better part of the next five days, with my survival in question.”

By the time Dr. Coelho was taken off the ventilator, the second stroke had robbed him of the ability to speak and walk normally. He also lost a great deal of strength and dexterity on the right side of his body, his right hand in particular.

Following a two-week stay, Dr. Coelho was released from the hospital, but his condition required rigorous occupational, speech and physical therapy. He chose to receive that care at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Treasure Coast in Vero Beach.

Encompass Health offers a higher level of care than a skilled nursing facility and is well-equipped to treat patients recovering from strokes.

“Patients deserve the most advanced rehabilitation in the most beneficial setting for them following a stroke,” stresses Dawn Bucaj, RN, BSN, business development director at Encompass Health. “Strokes are brain injuries, and we are certified by the Joint Commission for disease-specific care for both stroke and brain injury rehabilitation.”

Restoring Connections

In 2016, the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA) issued specific guidelines for adult stroke rehabilitation.

“They recommend intensive, multidisciplinary treatment, which can only be provided in an acute rehabilitation setting,” Dawn informs. “The AHA and ASA recommend that stroke patients go to acute rehab from the acute care hospital setting.

“Acute rehab helps stroke patients regain lost skills, relearn tasks and work to become independent again. Encompass Health Rehab Hospital is the only freestanding acute rehabilitation Hospital in Indian River County. We offer advanced technology, clinical expertise and personalized therapy in fully coordinated rehab programs to help patients achieve those goals.”

Encompass Health’s brain injury and stroke programs follow a multidisciplinary approach. The treatment team consists of primary care physicians, neurologists, physiatrists, registered nurses, physical and occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, nutritionists and social workers. This comprehensive approach helps diminish the impact strokes have on the brain.

“During the first few months following a stroke, the brain is very much like a newly formed brain. It must learn basic functions and make new connections,” Dawn describes. “The ability of the brain to adjust is known as neuroplasticity, and it plays a vital role in recovery.

“Getting into an acute rehab setting, which has specialized scopes of treatment and technology for stroke and brain injury recovery, is extremely important as soon as possible post stroke. Only acute rehab can build strength, function and confidence so patients can return to their activities of daily living despite the physical changes that can follow a stroke.”

The stroke and brain injury programs at Encompass Health encourages maximum recovery leading to restored connections, Dawn maintains.

“The goal is to restore patients’ independence and enable their return to the community for a higher quality of life,” she elaborates. “To achieve that goal, we coordinate individualized treatment programs, state-of-the-art technology and dedicated rehab teams for a comprehensive approach to care.

“That comprehensive approach includes daily physician visits, round-the-clock registered nursing care from nurses that specialize in rehabilitation and caring therapists, that help guide patients to reaching their goals for a quicker return home with the best outcomes. Our rehab programs include three hours of therapy per day, beginning at the patient’s level of ability.”

Dr. Daniel Coelho

Dr. Daniel Coelho

Corporately, Encompass Health is the nation’s leading inpatient rehab provider and the trusted choice of medical professionals. Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Treasure Coast contributes to that trust by offering a higher level of stroke and brain injury care to residents of Indian River County. That care includes a sustained and coordinated effort from its large team of providers working closely with patients, families and caregivers.

“If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke, it’s very important that you receive the right level of care,” Dawn emphasizes. “The public can tour Encompass Health any day of the week, without an appointment, or take a virtual tour on our website, at

“The website is informative and enables one to connect with a staff member who can help determine the appropriate level of care for you or your loved one. Remember to always ask for Encompass Health by name.”

“I Have No Deficits”

Dr. Coelho arrived at Encompass Health in mid-February. During a stay that lasted until March 9, he received physical, occupational and speech therapy.

“When I got to Encompass Health, I could barely talk, and my words were not intelligible,” Dr. Coelho recalls. “I received speech therapy every day, and by the time I left, I could speak sentences.

“At the same time, physical and occupational therapy got me walking around and helped me relearn some simple activities of daily living such as getting in and out of a car and brushing my teeth.

“They were focused on what needed to be done.”– Dr. Coelho

“The therapists also worked on my hands to make sure I could perform fine movements. When I was discharged, my right hand was visibly improved.”

Since his discharge, Dr. Coelho has continued to improve with outpatient therapy. He’s pleased with his progress.

“I’ve been driving for two months, and I can read at the speed I used to read at before the stroke,” he enthuses. “My speech is 99 percent perfect, and I have no deficits. I can also walk 500 yards without incident, which is a big improvement.”

Dr. Coehlo has improved so much that he hopes to return to work this year. He doesn’t discount the role the staff at Encompass Health played in his recovery.

“The people at Encompass Health are very nice and professional,” he raves. “They were focused on what needed to be done to return me to some form of the life I had before the strokes. They were very attentive. I can’t say enough good things about them.

“Think about it: I was disabled, and now I’m not.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photos by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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