Oakwood Trauma Rehab Department celebrates first year

Recovering from a traumatic brain or spinal injury requires a coordinated effort from physicians, therapists, patients and their families.

Oakwood Healthcare recently developed a program to meet that need—as well as a specialized unit to house it—in the Trauma Rehab Department at Oakwood Heritage Hospital (OHH) in Taylor and the results have exceeded expectations. It was recently named Clinical Program of the Year by Oakwood CEO Brian Connolly.

“In the short time that the Rehab Program has been open, it has made a significant impact on our community and has had a dramatic, positive impact on the lives of our patients and their families,” said Jay Meythaler, MD, the director of the Rehabilitation Trauma Unit. Meythaler is also a professor and chair of the Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R) department at the Wayne State University School of Medicine.

The unit brings together physicians, nurses and therapists who specialize in several different disciplines to provide a comprehensive recovery program. Opened in January of 2012, the Trauma Rehab Unit has seen about 200 patients, according to LeAnn Odom, administrator of the PM&R department at Heritage. Initially, it was estimated to serve about 150 patients during the first year.

“That tells me there is a great need in the community and we’re really serving the needs of the patients in the community,” she said.

The self-contained unit focuses on mobility, daily living activities, cognition, functional communication, psychological skills and more. In addition to the private rooms that promote a warm, healing environment, the unit features its own therapy gym with specialized equipment. A simulation lab, where patients can practice their mobility in a safe environment, is on tap for 2013, too. The inter-disciplinary team includes physicians, physiatrists, rehabilitation nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, neuropsychologists and family services to serve patients who have had a traumatic brain injury, neurological trauma, spinal cord injuries or multiple major traumas

“Because of the complexity of the damage to the brain or spinal cord, one single physician cannot handle treatment,” said Ike Yoon, MD, the medical director of the PM&R department at Oakwood Heritage. “We need to form a care team to handle the entire scope of patient care.”

That team comes up with an individualized program to benefit the patient and works with him or her throughout the continuum of their care, said Lisa Stephens, PT, MBA, the manager of rehabilitation services at OHH.

“The patients get a lot of personalized attention,” she said. “There’s consistency with the therapists, where the patient is always working with the same therapist. They get to know each other.”

David Menzel, a trauma patient, has seen that first hand. Menzel was working on the roof of his home when the ladder he was standing on abruptly collapsed and his life changed. Menzel, now well on the road to the recovery, credits the coordinated effort from the rehabilitation team to the progress he’s made.

“The whole team was there: the doctors were there, the nurses were there, the therapists were there,” he said. “The communication was fantastic.”

Kelly Smith, the division president of OHH, said the program rehabilitation unit and the staff that runs it was developed through the same kind of multi-disciplinary approach that now serves the patients so well.

“We saw a need, we developed a program and we recruited amazing team players,” she said. “Now, our patients and their families are benefitting from it.”