Rehabilitation center helps patients regain skills 'Team approach' to therapy used

February 09, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Opherral Persaud gingerly dug plastic pins from a lump of lime-green clay. As the 60-year-old Columbia resident discovered each new pin, she strengthened her fingers and hands.

Last October, the great-grandmother of two was hit by a vehicle in Philadelphia that crushed both her ankles and left her with four broken ribs and a blood clot in the base of her brain.

"I couldn't shampoo my hair, I couldn't get out my own front door," said Ms. Persaud, a lively woman who uses a walker and wheelchair to get around.

After a month and a half of therapy at Horizon Health & Rehabilitation in Columbia, Ms. Persaud can lace up her own shoes.

"I have terrific therapists," she said, glancing at Suzanne Brennan, director of occupational therapy. "They do not play. I love that because that's caring."

Horizon Health & Rehabilitation is Howard County's only freestanding center that offers physical, occupational and speech therapy,and neuro-psychological services under one roof.

"The advantage is that we're able to approach everyone with a team approach," said Dr. Craig B. Grether, clinical director and neuro-psychologist.

The 5-year-old therapy practice treats patients for a variety of ailments, including strokes, spinal cord injuries and head injuries.

Most patients come from Howard County, western Baltimore County, and Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties.

Tiffany Hill arrived at Horizon in December after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a fall from her horse. The 18-year-old Carroll County resident injured the area of her brain that controls language and speech. For the past two months, she has been relearning how to pronounce words that begin with the letters "C," "J" and "G."

To improve her reading, spelling and memorization skills, she also reads aloud and writes down words that give her trouble.

She said that she already notices a difference.

"It's getting easier," said Ms. Hill, who was forced to drop out of Towson State University after her first semester.

"At first, it was real hard. When I wrote letters to friends, I'd have to have a dictionary by me or ask my parents for help."

Now, the former premedical student is preparing to study pre-calculus and biology at Carroll Community College.

She expects to enroll at Towson State again in the fall.

Before choosing Horizon, Ms. Hill and her mother inspected other rehabilitation centers, but they did not offer the services she needed.

"We looked at a couple of other places, but they were patronizing," Ms. Hill said. "I needed someone who could tell me: This is how you read; this is how you spell."

The outpatient facility receives referrals from hospitals, home health agencies, doctors, social workers, friends and family members. Last year, Horizon treated about 400 patients, ranging from teen-agers to senior citizens.

To help patients master daily living skills, the center has set up areas to resemble a bathroom and kitchen, complete with a washer and dryer, microwave and sink.

There also is a large room that resembles a playground, with a large red ball, staircase, curb and ramp set, a ladder, treadmill and mirrors.

Rick Palazzo of Damascus sits at one device, jerkily swinging a piece of bent metal with his left hand.

"We're working on moving his elbow, arm and wrist," said Robin Ehrlich, an assistant occupational therapist.

"When we got him, his fist was like this," she said, curling her hand into a tight ball.

Each patient works individually with a therapist.

"We have one patient at a time," Ms. Brennan said. "I know my clients better. Just by establishing a one-on-one rapport, they get more comfortable telling you about problems."

Patients also appreciate the close supervision.

"Here, they stay right with you," Ms. Persaud said. "You get individual attention, and it's constant."

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