Specialized unit helps a patient return home

“I was begging to get into the program.”

Sandy knew she would have an uphill climb toward recovery.

On March 13, on her way back home, she was “in a bad car accident” in New Baltimore.

Once at the scene, the ambulance took Sandy to McLaren Macomb and its level II-verified trauma center.

Upon her arrival to the hospital, she was immediately evaluated by orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. Michael Milshteyn and the hospital’s trauma team. Thankfully, Sandy’s injuries weren’t life-threatening. But there were many.

The accident resulted in a shattered foot, multiple broken bones in her ankle along with a broken back and sternum. She would undergo multiple surgeries, needing to stay in the hospital for a few weeks for her initial recovery.

But the extent of her injuries would require more. Sandy’s continuing recovery needed specialized rehabilitation so she could progress in her overall recovery, but also learn how to care for herself as her injuries mended.

“I wasn’t quite sure how rehab was going to work for me,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I could do the amount of rehab I needed to.”

Three floors up

Her daughter, who is also a hospital nurse, did not want Sandy to be transferred to a nursing facility. Even though those facilities offer the program Sandy would need to continue in her recovery, she didn’t want to switch locations.

She wanted to continue her recovery in the care of the hospital that first treated her.

To her luck, McLaren Macomb had just opened its inpatient rehabilitation unit, a $12 million expansion that resulted in a freshly constructed 18-bed unit for patients just like Sandy.

“I begged to get into the program,” she said. “But I still wasn’t sure if I could do the amount of rehab I needed to.”

The therapists and nurses on the unit would work with her, though, alleviating any concerns Sandy might have. And one day in late March, instead of being delicately loaded into a medical transport, Sandy was simply moved from her room on the third floor into one on the sixth.

There she would benefit from extensive work with physical therapists, progressing in her recovery to the point where she could regain her independence and return home.

“Every day it was more and more,” Sandy said. “But they taught in a way that was attainable. They would set goals for me, and then I would set goals for myself.”

The therapists first goal was for Sandy to get from her bed to her wheelchair. Then to walk down the hallway 20 feet, and then try to go a little further the next day. She would also work in the unit’s specially designed gym under the therapists’ supervision.

“Little by little it came together,” she said. “They set me up for success. They don’t set you up for failure. The therapists were great to work with. We went in with a good, healthy attitude. If it hadn’t been for them, I would have been wallowing in self-pity.”

Sandy was so fond of her experience on the inpatient rehab unit that when it came time for her to be discharged, she didn’t want to leave.

“Because of COVID visitor restrictions,” Sandy said, “they became my friends and family.”

Back home

Before she was discharged, Sandy’s husband, Steven, was invited up to the unit for an educational session — he would learn how he could best help his wife when she returned home.

“They set me up so that when I came home, I could do stuff myself,” she said.

This would come in handy too. Not long after she returned home with her husband, Steven would test positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, Sandy tested negative, but Steven would still have to quarantine himself in a part of house, meaning he would not be able to help Sandy.

“I had to fend for myself,” she said. Initially concerned, Sandy would soon feel at ease. She would have to make her own meals, do the laundry, take care of the pets while also caring for her husband.

“If it hadn’t been for the things they taught me,” Sandy said of the inpatient rehab unit, “I wouldn’t be able to fend for myself and do the things I had to do.

“I attribute it to them,” she said. “The unit is a godsend.”