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Caring For Our Community

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Caring For Our Community

By Robin E. Butts

At Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital’s Sullivan Sports, Fitness, and Rehab, we have the opportunity to meet and work with many members of our community here in Sullivan, and surrounding communities. At SSFR our patients become our friends as we learn more about them - their joys, pains, and aspirations. In response, SSFR staff would like to highlight some of the hard work and accomplishments of our friends, your neighbors. This month, the spotlight is on Mr. Jeremy Generally from Dittmer, Missouri. Jeremy is an inspiration not only to those of us who worked with him as therapists, but also to many of the other patients and Wellness members at the gym who watched his determination, dedication, and progress during his 11 months with us in therapy. Jeremy wasn’t afraid to dream the impossible dream, and finally, some of his dreams are coming true.

I had the privilege of interviewing Jeremy about the long road of recovery he’s been traveling. Jeremy was in a car accident in 2008 in which he broke his neck, his back, his wrist, and sustained a brain injury. He was in a coma for 1 ½ weeks, had to wear a halo - a large metal cage that screws into the skull - to keep his neck still for 4 months, and had to have surgeries to allow his eyes to work together and to put a screw in his wrist. Jeremy was in a hospital in St. Louis for 3 months, and then transferred to a rehab hospital for another 3 months. He remembers some of that time:

“I remember hallucinating, having to relearn how to eat. I had to relearn how to do everything. My left arm was the only thing that worked. I couldn’t do much therapy because I was still hallucinating and I had the halo.”

After Jeremy came home from the hospital, he received home health therapy. He still had an IV and was only able to exercise on the floor.

“They had to use a Hoyer lift to get me on the floor and then to get back up. We did a lot of stretching. I couldn’t control my legs.”

Over the next 4 years, Jeremy had home health therapy several times and even tried outpatient therapy at another facility for awhile, but just didn’t feel like he was improving as much as he thought he could.

“I didn’t feel like anyone wanted to work with me. They kept telling me I had maxed out and that I couldn’t do any more.”

Jeremy’s doctor, Lizette Alvarez, M.D. ordered therapy one more time and this time, Jeremy and his family found Sullivan Sports, Fitness, & Rehab.

“I finally started making progress!”

Jeremy was still in a wheelchair when he came to Sullivan Sports, Fitness, & Rehabilitation Center, but he had what some might have thought was an impossible dream: to walk.

“I wanted to get better use of my right arm, build up my endurance, and I wanted to walk.”

During his 11 months in therapy at SSFR, his therapists used a variety of treatments and techniques to help Jeremy reach his goals. Jeremy and his physical therapists worked in the pool so that he could move his legs in a more coordinated way, they worked on balance in the parallel bars, strengthened his core using a large work and sports simulator called the BTE, and they started walking around the track using a walker with someone supporting him on each side. His occupational therapists worked on gripping, using his arm, throwing, writing with his left hand since it had more control than his dominant right hand, and independent living skills like cooking and laundry. Jeremy also had speech therapy with Jim Hanny to work on memory, organization, multi-tasking, processing information, and speed of thinking. The therapists at SSFR worked on strengthening Jeremy’s whole body and building up physical and mental endurance for a full day’s activities. Jeremy made great strides forward, not only on the track, but in all of his therapy.

“Loren (Busenhart, physical therapy assistant) had me walk from the rehab down to Frick’s to get ingredients for the pizza I was going to make with Melissa (West, occupational therapist)! I walked with a shopping cart.” “I made corn muffins for the Soup Kitchen, too.”

Melissa fondly recalls, “You could ask Jeremy to do anything and he would try it!”

While Jeremy made excellent progress with the therapists and therapy assistants at Sullivan Sports, Fitness, & Rehab, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. There was some rough water along the way. During his time at SSFR, he began to experience profuse sweating, sometimes needing to change his shirt 3 times before he arrived for therapy. This slowed his progress for awhile and required more hospital time, tests, and medication changes.

“It was hard trying to do therapy with the sweating attacks. Sometimes they (the therapists) had to send me home.”

Were there times when Jeremy wanted to quit?

“Yes, from the other facilities because I didn’t think I was going to get any better. But not from Sullivan. I was doing better at Sullivan Sports, Fitness, & Rehab than any of the other places and I knew it was helping. I felt like the other places just wanted to get through the hour. They weren’t like that at Sullivan. The therapists at Sullivan Sports, Fitness, & Rehab believed in me, they actually cared.”

Patti Carey, another of Jeremy’s therapists, echoes the feeling: “We became friends. We had lots of heart-to-heart talks about life. Sometimes he would look at me like I was crazy, but it just took him awhile to believe in himself.”

During Jeremy’s course of therapy at SSFR, other patients, family members, and gym members, people he didn’t know, would approach Jeremy to tell him how much improvement they could see or how he inspired them.

“At the time, I couldn’t see everything they were seeing, but now I can.” “I was sad to leave there.”

Jeremy finished his therapy at Sullivan Sports, Fitness, & Rehab earlier this year, but he’s not stopping there. He walks up the steps to the front door of his house, and up and down the 15 steps inside the house independently, exercises for several hours almost every day, drives a tractor and a 4-wheeler, volunteers at Agape house every week, and starts college in August. He will have assistance for note-writing, recording classes, and will be able to have extra time to take tests. He is interested in geography.

“I never really did well in school, not because I couldn’t, but because I didn’t try. Now, I’m actually choosing to go back and get a degree.”

Jeremy has this advice for other people who wonder if all the hard work is worth it:

“Just keep at it because you can go for weeks and months at a time and not feel like you’re making any progress, but other people can see that you are. I still have problems with balance and reaction time to catch myself if I start to fall, and I’m hoping one day to be able to walk without using a walker or a cane. Don’t give up.”

Every single day of his therapy at Sullivan Sports, Fitness, & Rehab, Jeremy lived that advice and gave 100% with everything that was asked of him. It was obvious that he wasn’t taking his time there for granted. He made the most of every session, had a great attitude, and was a joy to work with. All of the therapists at SSFR are thrilled with his persistence and his progress, all because Jeremy dared to dream the impossible dream.

Jeremy Generally leaves the walker behind as he enjoys one of his favorite pastimes. (Helmet off for photo only.)