Multi-Trauma Program

Return to independence after life-threatening injury.

Last year, auto body specialist George*, 62, was living a care-free, unfettered life in his native St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. In early July, George slipped and fell and hit his head on a rock. At the time, he underwent an MRI at the local hospital and was told he was fine.
Two months later, Hurricane Irma hit the tranquil island, and life changed dramatically in St. Thomas, George’s life was especially impacted by events on that late summer day.
“I was in my house trying to secure my stuff during the hurricane,” he shares. “Part of the roof came down and hit me on the head. I went to the hospital in St. Thomas, and they found I was bleeding in my head.”Stock photo from
According to George’s sister, Rita*, George has difficulty recalling exactly what happened during and right after the time of the hurricane. She offers to fill in some of the details.
“When the hurricane hit, George was in his house, and he witnessed windows being blown out and the roof collapsing, and he realized he lost everything,” states Rita. “He became depressed and went to his girlfriend’s house. She noticed he was acting strangely and took him to the emergency room in St. Thomas. When they found bleeding in his head, they airlifted him to a hospital in Miami.
“The doctors there figured that something that happened to George during the hurricane – or facing the reality that he’d lost everything – had triggered the bleeding, even though his injury actually occurred two months before.”
Doctors in Miami diagnosed George with a bilateral hematoma, meaning blood was accumulating on both sides of his head. They quickly performed surgery to release the pressure of the blood on his brain.
“I had surgery on my head,” confirms George. “They had to cut my head and put in tubes to drain the blood. I was in the hospital in Miami for about a month.”
When George was released from the hospital, Rita made arrangements to have him transferred to her home in Vero Beach, where she could care for him. He was with her about a week when he began experiencing terrible headaches.
“I knew something wasn’t right, so I took him to the emergency room in Vero Beach,” relates Rita. “They discovered he was bleeding in his head again, so they rushed him back to the hospital in Miami to do the surgery a second time. He stayed there another month.”
George was in critical condition following his second surgery and needed extensive rehabilitation. Rita chose the only rehabilitation hospital in the area because they would be capable of handling George’s serious situation. She reached out to HealthSouth Treasure Coast Rehabilitation Hospital in Vero Beach.
“I was in bad shape when I first got to HealthSouth,” reports George. “I couldn’t talk or walk. I couldn’t eat. I was on a feeding tube for a long time. I didn’t even know where I was until about a week after I got there.”

Multi-Trauma Treatment

When George hit his head on that rock, he suffered a traumatic brain injury. A traumatic brain injury is complex, has a broad scope of symptoms and leads to a wide range of disabilities. When George arrived at HealthSouth, he had severe disabilities, and the hospital’s dedicated staff was determined to help him overcome them.
“George came to us in critical condition,” notes Dawn Bucaj, RN, BSN, senior rehab liaison at HealthSouth. “He had multiple systems failing. He was on feeding tubes, couldn’t walk or talk and was experiencing other common complications of traumatic brain injury.
“To complement our comprehensive brain injury rehabilitation program, HealthSouth created a multi-trauma rehabilitation program for advanced critical care conditions. This program provides optimal recovery for traumatically injured patients.”
The multi-trauma program at HealthSouth provides comprehensive rehabilitation services to keep pace with the wide range of traumatic conditions, including closed head and spinal cord injuries. The program offers a team approach to establishing an individualized plan of care based on the patient’s specific needs and diagnosis.
“A physiatrist, a physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation, directs the team throughout the patient’s stay,” explains Dawn. “Other members of the team include an internal medicine physician, nutritional specialist, occupational and physical therapists, rehabilitation-certified registered nurses, and respiratory and speech therapists.
“We also work with many consulting physicians from the community who assist as needed to address a patient’s specific injuries and needs.”
After George’s admission to HealthSouth, when he was alert enough, he was started on the therapy portion of the program. He worked hard, and before long, he and the therapists started seeing improvement.

“I really believe that if it wasn’t for the cheer, love and attention they gave George at HealthSouth, he probably wouldn’t have made it.” – Rita

“When he woke up, George went straight into physical, occupational and speech therapy,” verifies Rita. “Then one day, he just started blurting out words and talking again. I think he was able to do it because of the attention they gave him at HealthSouth.”
The multi-trauma program offers a higher level of care than rehabilitation centers and nursing homes. As a hospital, HealthSouth provides daily physician visits and round-the-clock certified registered nursing care to help patients reach their goals and ultimately return home quicker. Patients also work with experienced therapists who guide them toward their goals.
“Our patients deserve that level of care, and HealthSouth is the only provider on the Treasure Coast who can provide it,” observes Dawn. “Patients with multi-trauma conditions, such as traumatic brain injuries, typically are admitted from a hospital. Still, it’s important that patients and families ask for HealthSouth by name.”

Independence Day

George’s memory of what happened that day in September may be murky, but he clearly remembers the effort it took to get his health back. He recalls the patience and dedication of the physicians, nurses and therapists at HealthSouth.
“The staff began giving me all types of therapy,” comments George. “I had everything. I had to start from scratch to learn how to eat. I finally got into a wheelchair, but I was determined to walk again. It took a good month to do it.”
George was recently released and walked out of HealthSouth after more than a month in the multi-trauma program. He’s amazed by how far he’s come with the help of the hospital’s staff. Now, he’s back home with his sister, and he can talk, eat and walk again. He’s excited about his progress.
“Now, I do things for myself,” he enthuses. “I don’t need anybody to help me get to the bathroom, and I can put on my own clothes. I feel like I’m back. Now, I do everything to push myself to get stronger. I walk. I ride my bike. I exercise and do leg balance exercises.”
Rita is impressed by George’s comeback as well. She also credits the staff at HealthSouth for treating him so well when he was there. They helped him get healthy when he started out in critical condition.
“George has really progressed,” marvels Rita. “While he was in the hospital in Miami, he lost a lot of weight. He went down to one hundred thirty-five pounds, and this was a man who was almost two hundred pounds. I took him to the doctor this week, and he’s back up to one hundred eighty-one.
“I really believe that if it wasn’t for the cheer, love and attention they gave George at HealthSouth, he probably wouldn’t have made it. They gave him such good care that when he came back to my house, he said, Those nurses were so nice. I want to do something nice for them. So, he got a cake and brought it to them as a way of saying, Thank you.”
“I got wonderful care at HealthSouth,” agrees George. “Someone was always there when I needed help. If I rang the bell, someone always came right away. HealthSouth Treasure Coast Rehabilitation Hospital is the place to go if something happens to you.”

*Patient’s and sister’s names witheld at their request.
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