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March is Brain Injury Awareness Month – Putting the Pieces Together

How MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital tackles the brain injury puzzle through rehabilitation

Putting the Pieces TogetherA man in his 30s sits before an occupational therapist in a quiet therapy room folding a basket of laundry and sorting it into stacks. In the next room, a 65-year-old woman responds to her speech-language pathologist with words that correspond with images on cards.

Down the hall in a setting that resembles a grocery store, a physical therapist accompanies a 48-year-old man who is pushing a grocery cart and reaching for cans of green beans on a shelf.

At MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital, an inpatient rehabilitation hospital in Overland Park, Kansas, this is how patients receive therapy in the hospital’s brain injury program. The inpatient hospital, which is part of the HealthSouth network, treated more than 130 mild and severe brain injury patients in 2016.
The program holds a Disease-Specific Care Certification with The Joint Commission, which is achieved through an assessment of the program’s processes, MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital’s ability to evaluate and improve care within its organization, and interviews with patients and staff.

What Started from
a Bump on the Noggin
According to the Brain Injury Association of America, 5.3 million Americans live with a long-term disability as a result of traumatic brain injury. Getting hit on the head with a heavy object, a car wreck, an infection, a stroke or a fall could cause a brain injury.

Former MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital brain injury patient Steve Zink, a safety inspector who travels frequently for his job, endured a brain injury in August 2014 when the door of his rental car struck his head as he was getting out of the car.

He did not think much of the bump until his health began slowly declining over the next five weeks, and he began experiencing episodes of falling asleep during meetings, slurred speech and confusion. Finally, after falling while getting out of bed, Zink’s wife called 911 for help.

At the hospital, doctors discovered the bump from the car door caused a very slow brain bleed. He underwent a craniotomy to stop the bleeding and relieve the pressure on his brain. Four weeks post-surgery, Zink arrived at MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital in a wheelchair and required assistance to sit up. Yet, he was determined to work with the brain injury team to achieve the best recovery possible.

After 10 days of intense, comprehensive physical rehabilitation, Zink walked out of the hospital using only a walker. He ditched the walker the following week and returned to work a couple of months later.

It Takes a Village
In the world of rehabilitation, the saying “It takes a village” holds true. By having a team specialized in treating brain injury, patients receive consistent, high-quality care adapted to meet their needs and goals. Challenges that may accompany brain injuries include difficulties with speech, swallowing, cognition, hand-eye coordination, balance and moving arms and legs, as well as behavioral and emotional changes.

“One of the primary focuses for our team is to provide continuity of care throughout the patient’s stay. It is especially important with this population to have consistency with therapy members as well as carryover with family,” says Leah Barry, physical therapist.

Our Brain Injury Team
At MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital, the brain injury team consists of Dr. Sushma Lueder, an independent physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation who also serves as the brain injury program director, two physical therapists, two occupational therapists, two case managers, a speech-language pathologist, nurses, a pharmacist and a rehabilitation liaison. Dr. Lueder makes frequent visits to brain injury patients during their stays and oversees the program. The team meets frequently to discuss patients’ progress and individualized care plans.

“The goal is to provide a collective effort to deliver the structure and communication needed to ensure success of the patients while increasing independence during the transition to the community and home,” says Lisa Fortner, occupational therapist.

Real Patients. Real Therapy.
Goals of brain injury patients vary from being able to swallow solid foods again to going to the grocery store to returning to work. There are even more personal goals such as one patient returning to the NICU to cradle her newborn baby.

MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital provides an experience that helps patients understand the purpose of their exercises by placing them in similar environments found in their communities such as walking through a model grocery store with shelves stocked with grocery items. They can also work with a therapist on safely getting in and out of a mock car that is set to the exact height of their vehicle; and if that car runs out of gas, there is even a gas pump the patient can practice on.

Technologies may be integrated to help patients with repetitive movements powered by electrical stimulation, while others offer an interactive experience to test hand-eye coordination and response times.

The hospital’s activities of daily living suite allows patients to practice returning home where activities such as cooking, dressing, hygiene and chores will be part of their routine again. Therapists work with patients to help them safely perform these activities and show them how to adapt, if needed.

Therapists also take patients out into the community to restaurants, clothing stores, grocery stores, movie theatres and pet stores. During a community outing at a restaurant, a patient is able to test out their speech, physical and occupational therapy skills in one setting. Outings can allow patients to navigate different terrains such as sidewalks, carpet and tile floors. Speech therapy is practiced when the patient is placing an order, and fine motor skills are rehearsed when using utensils.

After a patient is discharged, there are still many emotional challenges a patient endures, so MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital provides monthly brain injury survivor-led support groups that allow patients to interact with others going through similar situations. Support groups are open to anyone who has survived a brain injury and are not limited to only those who have received treatment at MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital.

Similar to a jigsaw puzzle, there are many pieces needed to treat brain injury.

MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital is proud to offer specialized services and an experienced team that assembles those pieces allowing patients to return to their communities and their lives.

For more information on MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital’s brain injury program or to schedule a tour, visit midamericarehabhospital.com or call 913 491-2400.

5701 West 110th Street
Overland Park, KS 66211

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