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Team helps those with brain injuries relearn skills

December 11, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

Most of us take simple chores like making lunch and driving to the grocery store for granted.

But an accident that results in a head injury can change everything in an instant. When the brain is injured, even the most mundane tasks can be a challenge.

That's where the staff of Total Rehab Care can help.

Located at Robinwood Medical Center, Total Rehab boasts seven certified brain-injury specialists who help patients relearn basic skills in a day program that runs five days a week.

They format specialized, intensive programs for each patient, clinical coordinator Matt Lilly said. Whether the task is meal planning or learning to drive again, therapists train patients to "do things from start to finish," Lilly said.

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Patients undergo comprehensive evaluations to determine what kind of therapy they need.

"We sometimes will see patients that look physically very good, but may be having cognitive deficits," such as memory lapses or an inability to organize their thoughts or solve problems, occupational therapist Kathy Subasic said. "Some have physical problems, too."

A team of therapists spends three to five days assessing the patient's needs, then sets up a meeting with the family to discuss treatment.

For most patients, Total Rehab is "the next step after the hospital," Lilly said. "The goal is to get them as independent as possible."

One recent graduate was a man in his early 40s who was injured on the job and was concerned that he wouldn't be able to work again, Subasic said.

"He had a lot of cognitive deficits and memory difficulties," Subasic said. But the staff coordinated his therapy with his employer and now, "he's back to work," she said.

Because the therapy is so intensive, Lilly said the program is designed to be small. Usually the staff works with three or four patients at a time, six to eight at most. About two-thirds of the patients come from Washington County, he said. Many of them are young - ages 16 to 24 are the peak years for traumatic brain injury, Lilly said. Strokes and falls cause brain injuries in older people, he said.

The program started independently in Frederick, Md., in 1997, Lilly said, Medical Director Mark Yacyk brought it into the Washington County Health System in 2000.

"There are things I think that we can do that other programs don't," he said.

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