Rehabilitation center fills care gap for severely injured, disabled patients ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY HEALTH

December 01, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

Marcia Herndon held a red plastic cone in her right hand, slowly lifting it up and across her body. With each jerky movement, the Annapolis mother, who suffered two strokes in August, came closer to her goal -- extending her arm across her chest and moving it back again.

Elsewhere in the room, Anne Brooks, who suffered numerous injuries in a head-on car accident, prepared to walk 10 feet from a mirrored wall to a large pole.

"We want some real walking. No hobbling, no shuffling," urged therapist Susan Pierson, holding a belt attached to Ms. Brooks' waist.

"I used to be afraid to do this. Remember?" said Ms. Brooks, beaming as she took her first few steps.

"You sure are getting better," responded Ms. Pierson.

Both Ms. Herndon and Ms. Brooks, whose disabilities require multiple therapies, are patients at Comprehensive Rehabilitation Care (CRC) in Glen Burnie, a joint venture between North Arundel Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Systems.

The center, opened in September 1991, filled a gap for patients in need of many therapy services, said Susan Ward, vice president of operations at North Arundel.

Located in the Empire Medical Building on Hospital Drive, the facility serves some of the most severely injured and disabled patients in the area, she said.

The seed for the center was planted in 1990, when hospital officials were approached by University of Maryland administrators, who realized almost 20 percent of all Maryland Shock Trauma Center patients came from Anne Arundel County.

"It was clear there was no facility to meet patients' needs when they came out of an in-patient facility," Ms. Ward said. "They would have had to go to multiple facilities or they would not have gotten the therapy they needed."

Most patients are referred by their private physicians; others hear about the center through word of mouth. The average length of treatment is 12 weeks, she said.

What makes the CRC center different from other therapy practices in the county is that all types of therapy -- occupational, physical and speech -- are offered under one roof along with the services of a medical director, social worker and psychologist.

At CRC, therapy appointments are scheduled back-to-back, making it easy for patients to move from speech to occupational to physical therapy in a couple of hours.

"It's definitely more convenient," said Ms. Pierson, the clinical services manager at the center. "Here, therapy is a team approach, a coordinated effort. I think it significantly improves the chances of people returning to normal functioning."

When Ms. Herndon, 38, arrived at the center two months ago, she could not walk, her speech was slurred and she could do little for herself.

Within a month, her speech had returned to normal, she said. In 1 1/2 months, she was able to walk again, albeit slowly and carefully.

"I was totally disabled. I couldn't do anything," she said. "It's really surprising, my recovery. At first I was going to give up. I was disgusted and frustrated. But now I'm making progress."

During a recent therapy session, Ms. Herndon practiced getting in and out of a bathtub with the help of occupational therapist Jennifer Kagan-Hardy.

"We work on daily living skills, trying to encourage independence as much as possible," said Ms. Kagan-Hardy. The center has areas set up as a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom to help patients master tasks they do every day.

After two weeks at Shock Trauma and another two months recovering at the home of a friend, Ms. Brooks, 48, started therapy hoping she would some day be able to live independently in her own apartment. She had suffered a broken leg, dislocated hip, cracked vertebrae and ribs, facial fractures and severe nerve and artery damage to her left hand.

After three weeks of coordinated therapy, her progress had far exceeded her expectations, she said. Not only was she walking during a recent session, she also managed to hobble up and down four steps with the help of her cane and her determined therapist.

"I've come a long way. I could hardly do anything when I got here," she said, tears running down her cheeks.

"I think it's a wonderful place. They've shown me not to give up. A little bit [of improvement] each day becomes a lot. At the end of each week, I can see something I couldn't do before."

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