Last week I was invited to attend a patient reunion at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Sunrise Florida. I was a patient at HealthSouth after I completed chemotherapy to treat the Brain Tumor I was diagnosed with in November 2014. Once the course of chemotherapy was completed, I was debilitated and needed help with all of my activities of daily living.
Being admitted to the inpatient program was the last thing I wanted to do, but as a nurse and a case manager, I knew I needed help and the inpatient program was the best way for me to get that help as it would be an intensive program that would help me improve.
So, one day in early April, I called the HealthSouth facility near my home. I talked to the Director of Case Management and explained what was happening and that I needed her help. She got me an appointment with the Physiatrist so he could evaluate me and determine a course of treatment. Once he evaluated me, he agreed that I needed inpatient rehabilitation and would contact my hematologist/oncologist to discuss his plan of care. Once he got the ok, I was scheduled for admission.
The plan was for me to be there for two weeks. After two weeks, I would be re-evaluated to see what the next steps would be. During those two weeks, I learned how to walk in spite of having bilateral foot drop and neuropathy in my legs. I learned how to use my hands as they were also impacted by the neuropathy. I received cognitive therapy that helped me learn how to improve my cognition, compensate for challenges I was having with organization, memory, and management of simple tasks. Most of all I regained confidence in myself.
The therapists were innovative and pushed me past what I thought I could do. They explained what they wanted me to do and pushed me to do the exercises that helped me improve. The other patients I encountered in the gym also motivated me as they worked to address their challenges. Those two weeks were hard, but they proved to be the best two weeks of my life. I learned what I needed to do to heal and found that by following the therapist’s directions I improved and was able to get back to a functional person.
After I left the inpatient unit, I went to outpatient therapy to continue my program. Over the next few months, I became stronger and was able to perform all of my activities of daily living by myself. My husband was there to help, but I no longer told him “I can’t-do it” but started to say, “Let me try it.”
As I sat and listened to the other patients who spoke at the reunion and shared their stories about how they came to HealthSouth, how they progressed in their programs, and how they are doing today, I was overwhelmed and humbled to be among them. A number of patients had strokes, some had catastrophic injuries and others had various complex conditions that left impaired in various ways.
What was amazing to me was their positive attitudes and their resilience. Most were doing well and had gotten back to their lives despite lasting impairments. Some were still working to get back. Many were still in therapy or were waiting for prosthetics and other equipment that would help them to move forward.
Most patients could talk for themselves, but a few needed help as they could not talk or could not hold the microphone themselves. Family members filled in for them to share their experiences and how they were doing today. Family support is an important part of the rehabilitation process. It was evident from the various people who spoke how they too were impacted.
All expressed their gratitude to the therapists and staff who helped them get to where they are today. It was fulfilling to look around the room at the therapists, the case managers and the other members of the HealthSouth Staff. Many had smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes as each person shared their experience. They were proud of their work and how they helped so many ‘move on’ despite their complex conditions.
As I have said before to those who have followed my journey in Nurse Advocate, I know I am not the person I was before the Brain Tumor, but I am grateful to be alive and to do the things that I am able. Going through a life-altering event, helps you understand what is important and how little things really do matter.
I was happy to attend the patient reunion at HealthSouth and grateful to the entire team for their work and dedication.
PS. I wrote a post on resilience on April 16, 2016, after my rehabilitation journey. If you missed it, click here to read the post