All Posts in Category: Colorado

Motivated by her kids, single mom recovers

Motivated by her six kids, single mom in Greeley recovers from brain aneurysm, goes to college and goes back to work

Jennifer Flores had headaches before, but this was different. She’d never experienced that kind of pain. When it hit, she began to scream.

Anthony, 10, the eldest of Flores’ six kids, heard the screams. Flores would often playfully scare him and his siblings and chase them around for fun. But Anthony could tell she wasn’t playing. He called 911.

The last thing Flores, 28, of Greeley, remembered was fighting with EMS about who was going to watch her kids as they brought her into the ambulance.

She woke up at Swedish Medical Center in Denver. She’d had five brain aneurysms.

“They told me, If you can’t lift this medicine ball, you won’t be able to take care of your kids.”
— Jennifer Flores, mother of six and survivor of five brain aneurysms

When she woke up, she had no idea she was married or that she had six kids. She’d recognize their faces when they came to visit, but as soon as they left, she couldn’t remember them. Her youngest daughter was a year-and-a-half old then.

A brain aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel in the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. It can leak or rupture, which causes a hemorrhagic stroke. Leaks can cause sudden, severe headaches, often followed by a rupture. Ruptures can cause sudden, extremely severe headaches, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, blurred or double vision, sensitivity to light, seizures, drooping eye lids, loss of consciousness and confusion.

Hers ruptured.

After about two weeks at Swedish Medical Center, Flores transferred to the Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, 4401 Union St. in Johnstown, where she started her recovery. And even though she couldn’t remember them at first, her kids became her reason to get better.

When she first started, she couldn’t lift more than five pounds. When she got frustrated at the gym, her therapists would remind her why she was working so hard.

“I thought I couldn’t do it,” Flores said. “They told me, ‘If you can’t lift this medicine ball, you won’t be able to take care of your kids.’ “

Therapists had her plan birthday parties. They asked her what meals she’d cook her kids. Flores had to list out the ingredients. They even took her to the store and let her pick out the groceries and cook her famous lasagna.

She missed a couple ingredients that time, but it was a big step.

She got discharged from the rehabilitation hospital after 11 days. Her life continued to change. She had to participate in outpatient physical therapy for about a year. She and her husband got a divorce. She had to return to the workforce after her stroke and after years of being a stay-at-home mom.

Now 30, Flores and her ex-husband remain friends. The kids split their time between the two. She just graduated with an associate’s degree from Aims Community College. She’s mostly back to normal now, though sometimes she has difficulty sleeping or sleeps too much. She hopes to be a nurse someday.

“I want my kids to look back and see their mom did this,” Flores said. “I wasn’t supposed to walk again, but I graduated and I worked full time to take care of them.”

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Hospitals and Disasters

Are hospitals prepared for disasters?

The short answer is…yes.

All hospitals are required by laws, regulations, or accreditation requirements to plan for disasters.

Hospitals prepare for both internal and external disasters. Internal disasters are events that occur inside the hospital building like a fire, flood, or power outage and have potential to affect services.

An external disaster is one like Hurricane Harvey or Irma that occurs outside the hospital. This includes severe weather conditions, chemical incidents, or large-scale community accidents. In these situations, the disaster can affect the operations of the hospital or cause an influx of patients to a hospital, depending on the situation and type of hospital.

Every disaster is different. Hospitals prepare for a variety of situations through ongoing planning and practice. This helps everyone understand what to do and how to do it to ensure patients’ safety and well-being.

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Jennifer’s Success Story

Woman’s determination triumphs over life’s setbacks

Jennifer Flores credits family, Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital for stroke recovery.

By Jeannie Lancaster – For the Reporter-Herald
– –

When the pain first hit Jennifer Flores, she thought it might be another of the migraines she had suffered from since she was 14. But she quickly realized this was something very different.

“The pain was horrible,” she said. Flores began having difficulty with her speech and losing control of the left side of her body. It was June 2014, and she was in her Greeley home, alone with her six young children.

“I started screaming in pain,” she said. “It freaked my kids out.”

She told her 10-year-old son to call his dad, but his reply was “No, I’m calling 911.” When she insisted, he did call his father, but immediately afterward dialed 911.

“I was awake the whole time,” Flores said. “The paramedics got to the house, and they did a neurological assessment. I couldn’t move my left arm.”

What Flores didn’t know was that she was experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke, caused by a ruptured aneurysm in her brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “a hemorrhagic stroke happens when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures (breaks open). The leaked blood puts too much pressure on brain cells, which damages them.”

A more common type of stroke is an ischemic stroke, which is usually the result of a blocked artery, often caused by a blood clot. Ischemic strokes account for “87 percent of all strokes,” noted the Mayo Clinic.

Flores was taken to North Colorado Medical Center, where doctors assessed her condition. A CT was ordered, but before the scan could be taken, she suffered a massive seizure. A scan later revealed that she had suffered a ruptured aneurysm in her brain. Soon afterward, she was transported by medical helicopter to Swedish Medical Center in Denver.

Physicians at Swedish Medical Center placed Flores in a drug-induced coma and later repaired the ruptured aneurysm. She remained in the coma in the critical care unit for two weeks, before being awakened and transferred for another week to the neuro unit.

When it came time for Flores to be moved to a rehabilitation hospital, the decision was an easy one for her family. They had been pleased with the care Flores’ mother had received at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, following a stroke, three years earlier.

Although both women’s strokes were hemorrhagic, they were also different. Flores’ stroke was caused by the burst aneurysm, while her mother’s stroke was caused by an injury after a fall.

When she first arrived at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, Flores was very weak. She couldn’t walk and struggled with swallowing and speaking. “I couldn’t make sense of things,” she said. “It’s like I woke up on a different planet.”

Short-term memory loss was a significant challenge for her after her stroke. When staff members asked her if she was married, she replied, “No,” although she was. When asked if she had children, she again responded, “No.”

“If they asked the questions, I would say no,” said Flores, “but then they’d show me a picture of my family and ask ‘Who is this?’ and I’d answer, “That’s my kids.”

“This is common with this kind of stroke,” shared Beth Bullard, CEO of Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital.

During her 13 days at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, Flores received speech, occupational and physical therapy to aid her in her recovery. “The techniques we use here facilitate brain activity, creating new pathways in the brain,” added Bullard.

“We make it pertinent to a patient’s life and what he/she knows and what they know is familiar, so that helps the brain react well,” said Bullard. “The more repetition we can bring in, the faster we can get those connections to talk to each other again.”

“And that’s exactly what they did,” said Flores. “You have to relearn how to use your body again and how to have your body and your brain work together.”

Bullard noted that Flores’ therapy focused on many of ‘the things that we do every day that we take for granted — to get dressed, to brush your teeth, make a bed, go to the bathroom. These are the things that we do without thinking, but when you have an injury or disability they can become an incredible challenge.”

Though at times she felt like giving up, Flores continued to work hard. “I was determined to get better for my kids. They remained my focus.”

Following her release from Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, Flores received in-home therapy for a short time. In August 2015, physicians placed a stent in her brain to deal with three other aneurysms, which were discovered while repairing the ruptured aneurysm.

“I’m doing better now than I was before,” said Flores. “I don’t have the headaches and exhaustion that I had before the aneurysm.”

Flores and her husband divorced a year after her stroke. She returned to school and finished her associate degree in May of this year. She hopes to continue her education. Working and caring for her six children is her primary focus right now.

When she reflects on her experience and its possible impact on her children, she shared, “I want them to look and see that mom did it. I was paralyzed. I was divorced. But I fought my way back. I did it!”

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Recognizing a Concussion

With fall around the corner, participation in football and other cooler-weather sports and activities will grow – along with the potential for concussions.

A concussion is a brain injury that’s caused by a blow or jolt to the head or body. Concussion symptoms can occur immediately or days/weeks later. Signs of a concussion can include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Concentration or memory issues
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Feeling sluggish/”foggy”
  • Light sensitivity

Early treatment of the symptoms of a concussion may help speed recovery and prevent further injury down the road. If an incident occurs and you suspect a concussion, ask the person immediately and then again a few minutes later:

  • What day is it?
  • What month is it?
  • Repeat these words: Girl, dog, green (ask to repeat again a few minutes later)
  • Repeat the days of the week backward

If the individual appears confused and is unable to answer these questions, it could be a concussion.
End all activity and consult a physician immediately.

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Improving Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms through Rehabilitation

If you live with multiple sclerosis, rehabilitation can play an essential role in helping you function at your best.

From diagnosis on, rehabilitation specialists such as physical, occupational, and speech therapists can help with symptoms of the condition. These usually include muscle control and weakness – affecting the way you walk, move or talk.
Therapies that can help improve these issues include:

  • Physical Therapy – Physical therapists can evaluate and address how your body moves and functions. Therapists can help you with walking, mobility, strength, balance, posture, pain, fatigue, and bladder issues, helping to prevent unnecessary complications.
  • Occupational Therapy – Occupational therapists can help you with everyday activities to increase your independence, productivity, and safety. They can help you modify tasks, use adaptive equipment, and recommend strategies in the home and work place.
  • Speech Therapy – Speech-language pathologists can evaluate and treat any issues you may be having with speaking or swallowing. Some may also help with cognitive issues, which can affect your ability to think, reason, concentrate or remember.
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Local Hospital Helps Mother Return to Her Children

Two years ago, 28-year-old Jennifer Flores had one of the most frightening experiences of her life. While home with her five children in June 2015, she experienced sudden, extreme pain in her head. While her son called for an ambulance, she began losing control of her speech and the left side of her body. This story made the news. Watch it here.

Flores was taken to a local hospital where she was quickly flown by life flight to another as she suffered a massive seizure. Her heart stopped. She woke two weeks later to find that she had suffered from a ruptured aneurysm. She eventually was found to have 4 others that had not ruptured yet and underwent various surgeries.

When it came time for Flores’ rehabilitation, her father insisted that she be taken to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. Her mother had been treated there previously for a stroke and her aunt for an amputation.

“We had all been to the rehabilitation hospital before and knew how amazing it was,” she says. Although at the time, Flores says she was disoriented. When she arrived at the hospital she was unaware that she had children. She was weak and couldn’t walk, and she struggled with swallowing and speaking.

“The staff was so compassionate and caring,” Flores says. “They felt like family members. I had a whole team fighting for me to get better. You should have seen how they fought for me.”

Flores recalls the turning point in her rehabilitation process. One day she was trying to lift a 5-pound medicine ball and couldn’t do it. She gave up and told the therapist she couldn’t do it, and that she just wanted to go home to her children. To which the therapist replied that if she couldn’t lift the ball, she was going to be unable to lift her baby and may not be able to take care of her children.

That hit home.

“The ‘tough love’ worked,” Flores says. When it came time for dinner later that day, she grabbed her wheelchair and started to walk to the dining room. “I was determined to get better for my kids; they remained my focus. My rehabilitation was tailored to me and my experience. I wasn’t just practicing writing words; I planned birthday parties for each of my children. This tested my memory, organization skills, and writing. This is what I would have been doing at home. It was perfect for me.”

Flores says she had another powerful experience at the hospital as well. A persistent cough disrupted her sleep for days. One of the physicians heard her one night and went into her room. He asked if she had tried hot tea to soothe the cough. Flores said she had not because she was on a diet that required all her drinks to be thickened, and she didn’t think she should. The doctor reassured her she could have the tea.

“He then went to the cafeteria and made me tea with lemon and honey,” Flores says. “Then he sat with me and talked while I drank it. It was as if I were the only patient there. He made me tea the next night as well. It was truly a powerful and compassionate experience.”

After 11 days, Flores walked out of the hospital and headed home to her children.

“I couldn’t have done it without Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital,” she says. “The entire staff was compassionate and dedicated, and everyone knew what they were doing. It really was amazing.”

Flores, who now is a mother to six children, recently graduated with an associate’s degree. She intends to continue with her education and earn a bachelor’s degree in public health and human services. She is completely independent.

“The whole experience has provided me with powerful insight,” she says. “I want to share my story and inspire others. I want to help patients and their family members understand a process like this takes time and patience. Everyone will get frustrated at times, but there is help and support available. Look for it and use it. Focus on what you CAN do and not on what you can’t do.”

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10 Early Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Michael J. Fox was a 29-year-old actor who woke up one morning and noticed his little finger shaking. What he thought was a side effect of a hangover actually was an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder that has no known cause. Nearly a million people in the United States live with the disease.

Some symptoms of the disease are easy to see, while others are hard even for a trained healthcare professional to detect.
The National Parkinson Foundation offers these 10 early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease:

  1. Tremor or shaking of a body part
  2. Small handwriting – your handwriting changes to become smaller
  3. Loss of smell
  4. Trouble sleeping
  5. Trouble moving or walking
  6. Constipation
  7. Soft or low voice – your voice changes to be softer
  8. Masked or serious look on your face even when you’re not in a bad mood
  9. Dizziness or fainting
  10. Stooping or hunching over

No one symptom necessarily means that you have the disease; the symptom may be caused by another condition. However, if you feel you are experiencing symptoms, don’t hesitate to visit your physician.

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Rehabilitative Care – It’s Not All the Same

When looking for rehabilitative care, you may have heard of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, assisted living centers, skilled nursing facilities, and nursing homes. While these may seem like equal choices for care, they’re not.

Each of the facilities mentioned above has rehabilitation professionals on staff, but only one – the rehabilitation hospital – specializes in rehabilitation, offering 24-hour rehabilitative nursing care, along with daily physician management and intensive rehabilitation therapies.

So, why is this important?

Simply put, when it comes to your health, you want the best option provided.

A national study commissioned by the ARA Research Institute shows that patients treated in inpatient rehabilitation hospitals have better long-term results than those treated in skilled nursing facilities.
The study shows that patients:

  • Live longer
  • Have less hospital and ER visits
  • Remain longer in their homes without additional outpatient services

In addition, patients in the study:

  • Returned home from their initial stay two weeks earlier
  • Remained home two weeks longer

So the bottom line is, as a patient, you get to choose where you want to go. Don’t ever hesitate to research, observe and ask questions about a facility to be sure you receive the level of rehabilitative care that you want and need.

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Lower Your Stroke Risks this Summer

Summer is a great time for a lot of things – barbecues, outdoor activities, vacations…but what you may not think about when it comes to summer is using all it has to offer to lower your stroke risks.

Strokes – or brain attacks – are the leading cause of adult disabilities in the United States, and can happen to anyone at any time. According to the National Stroke Association, nearly 800,000 people experience strokes every year.

One of the biggest myths regarding strokes is that they can’t be avoided. But in reality, nearly 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented by controlling lifestyle risk factors, or habits that we engage in that can be changed to improve our health.

Summer provides easy-to-find opportunities to lower stroke risks, such as:

  • Buy and eat fresh produce. Visit your local farmer’s market or grocery store to find in-season, fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat them in their natural states.
  • Eat less salt. Eat fresh vegetables versus canned items, and your salt intake will decrease.
  • Visit the beach. Eat more seafood (at the beach or not) instead of red meat.
  • Enjoy the outdoors. Get active outside during the warmer and longer days.
  • Put the cigarettes down. Summer usually is less stressful. Use it to your advantage to try to break the habit.
  • Shoot for your healthy weight. Healthy eating and activities may help you reach a healthy weight (if you’re not already at it).
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After a Stroke — Finding the Right Words

It’s common to struggle at times to find the right word during a conversation. But for an individual who has had a stroke, finding the right word may be much more difficult.

Aphasia can be a side effect of a stroke, which can affect a person’s ability to communicate by impairing the ability to speak, read, listen or write. When a person with aphasia has word-finding difficulty, it’s called anomia.

Anomia makes it difficult to find the words or ideas that a person wants to share. Sometimes the word may come, and sometimes it won’t.

When this happens in a conversation, the person who is speaking to the stroke survivor may want to jump in quickly to supply the word. But in reality, that can be more of a hindrance than a help. It would be more beneficial to help the person find the word they are looking for rather than supplying it.

So, how can you best communicate with someone under these circumstances? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Allow plenty of time for a response. Talk with the individual, not for him or her.
  • Ask “yes” or “no” questions that can be answered simply and without a lot of explanation.
  • Use photographs or pictures to help provide cues.
  • Write your cues – such as a letter or a drawing – on a piece of paper to share.
  • Confirm and repeat back what the person has said. Use paraphrases or key words to be sure that you’re understanding properly.
  • Use gestures as you ask questions.
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Act FAST and Save a Life

FAST is an easy way to identify the most common symptoms of stroke:

F – Face drooping. Ask the person to smile. Note if one side of the face is drooping.
A – Arm weakness. Ask the person to raise both arms to the side. See if one drifts downward.
S – Speech difficulty. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Listen if the speech is slurred or strange.
T – Time to call 911. If you observe any of these signs, call for help immediately.

Take note of the time of the first symptom so you can tell medical personnel because this can affect treatment decisions. Rapid access to medical treatment can make a difference between full recovery and permanent disability.

Other symptoms of a stroke also may include sudden onset of:

  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding what someone is saying
  • Numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body
  • Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes
  • Severe headache with no known cause
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

Even if you’re unsure if someone is having a stroke, don’t delay in calling 911 to get the person medical help immediately.

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Don’t Have a Stroke

Dick Clark. Sharon Stone. Rick James.

When you think of these celebrities, you probably think of their talents. What you probably don’t realize is that each suffered a stroke.

Strokes – or brain attacks – can happen to anyone at any time. Strokes are the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, and the fifth leading cause of death.

According to the National Stroke Association, about 800,000 people suffer from strokes every year. What’s notable, however, is that nearly 80 percent of strokes can be avoided.

Certain traits, conditions and habits can raise an individual’s risk of having a stroke. Many of these lifestyle risk factors can be controlled and may actually help prevent a stroke from occurring.

That’s good news, right? So, how do we lessen our chances of having a stroke?

We can start by controlling these lifestyle risk factors:
• High blood pressure
• Smoking
• Diabetes
• Poor diet
• High blood cholesterol
• Physical inactivity
• Obesity
• Heart diseases
• Alcohol consumption

If you think you can improve any of these lifestyle risk factors, do it.
The changes you make now may affect what happens – or better yet, what doesn’t happen – later.

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Celebrate Stroke Awareness Month with Us!

Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital invites you to a FREE Luncheon and 50-foot Stroke Survivor Walk and Roll!

– Tuesday, May 23, 2017 | 12:15 p.m (at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital) –

This event honors and supports stroke survivors while raising awareness of stroke and its incidence in Northern Colorado. A stroke alumni survivor will speak at the event, and we will have therapists on site to assist as needed.

We encourage you to invite your family and friends to participate.

Registration is required. Please RSVP by May 15 to 970-619-3458.

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5 Benefits of Walking

There’s nothing quite like a good walk. It doesn’t require a gym membership or a bunch of equipment, and often gets you into the great outdoors.

It’s also very good for you, both physically and mentally. Indeed, all of the benefits of walking would make for a long list, but here are five main benefits that can inspire you to lace up your walking shoes and get moving.

1. Walking Improves Your Mood

You know how it is at the end of a long, trying day. You get home and are looking for something to help take the edge off a little bit. And a great way to do just that – is by taking a walk.

Studies show that walking affects our nervous system, so that we’ll feel a decrease in anger and hostility. Furthermore, walking outside exposes you to sunlight, which helps you cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

2. Walking Combats the Effects of Too Much Sitting

It has become clear in recent years that prolonged sitting has many negative health effects, including the damage it causes to leg arteries. But one study showed that taking even three, five-minute walks a day can reverse this damage.

If your job entails prolonged sitting, it’s helpful to take a short break every hour and go for a quick stroll.

3. Walking Boosts Your Immune System

We’ve already mentioned how great walking is as a stress-reliever, but it also improves your circulation, and helps give you a sense of overall calm. In turn, these factors boost your immune system – which helps your body fight diseases; from the common cold, up to more serious health problems.

Walking has even been shown to lessen menopause symptoms for older women.

4. Walking Lowers Your Risk of Chronic Disease

We’ve already touched on the positive impact walking has on your immune system and fending off diseases, but it’s worth a closer look:

  • Walking lowers your blood sugar levels and your overall risk for diabetes (according to the American Diabetes Association).
  • Another study showed that regular walking lowered blood pressure, and may significantly reduce the risk of stroke.
  • Studies also show that those who walked regularly, and met minimum physical activity guidelines had a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.

5. Walking Helps Improve Your Creativity

The research is in: Walking and other physical activities will improve your creativity and help you find solutions – like those often faced at work –  to tricky problems. A study showed that walking produced twice as many creative responses in participants that walked, than those who were sitting for long periods.

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Wyoming Resident Travels More Than 400 Miles for Johnstown’s Rehabilitative Care

Cliff Root and his wife, Marisa, traveled more than 400 miles and five hours from their hometown in Sheridan, Wyo., so Cliff could receive care at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital in Johnstown, Colo. And, they’ll tell you that every minute and every mile was worth it.

Almost two years ago, Root, who was 65 years old and on the cusp of retiring, suffered a massive stroke. A Vietnam veteran, Root was an active member of his community and integral in leading the economic development and policy of the state. He was an avid golfer and enjoyed participating in outdoor activities like hunting and hiking.

It was on a hiking trail with his wife that he suffered a stroke. “It was so sudden,” Root says. “Initially, I didn’t have the obvious signs of a stroke, so I wasn’t sure what was happening. I had extreme vertigo, nausea and problems with my eye, but I didn’t think it was a stroke.”

After an emergency phone call by his wife, Root was taken to a local hospital in Sheridan, Wyo. where he was diagnosed as having had a stroke. Root was unable to move his arms or legs, and he was unable to speak or communicate. It took him a while to process what had happened to him. His attending physician recommended outpatient therapy, but Root and his wife knew he needed more specialized treatment to recover. They were adamant about going to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, where his stepdaughter works. His wife drove him the whole way.

“Choosing the right care is huge,” he says. “I knew I had to come here where they specialize in stroke rehabilitation. I was inspired by the people here who believed I could recover. It gave me a foundation and made me believe in myself.”

Root says it took a lot of support and consideration from his healthcare team and his family to help him recover. “I just had to surrender,” he says. “I couldn’t communicate my thoughts or move my muscles. It took a tremendous amount of energy just to listen. When you can’t communicate, it’s easy to become isolated if those helping you aren’t tolerant and understanding. I could have become part of the background, but I didn’t. “

Root admits that his healing process was challenging, but he kept thoughts of his family in the forefront to motivate him.

“There was such a role reversal; I went from being a father to a son,” he says. “Internally, I was so angry because I didn’t want to be that way. It was a ‘too much’ moment when I realized how incapacitated I had become.”

Root says he wanted to give up at times, but with the support of his family and the healthcare team, he kept going. He worked daily with physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and others on his healthcare team. After three weeks, he was able to speak and walk, and had minimum balance, hearing and vision issues. He was discharged home and continued to receive outpatient therapy. With some adaptations, Root now participates in activities he enjoys like golfing and hunting.

“I was still making adjustments after I got home, but time is a great healer,” Root says. Since his recovery, Root has shared his story numerous times with others and plans to continue to do so. “I want to offer hope and encouragement to others who have gone through what I’ve gone through,” he says. “I want them to have the courage to do what I did to recover. I hope I can be an inspiration.”

“I had a lot of people pulling for me,” he continues. “A stroke can take down anyone, but with the right care and attitude, you can live a full life again. I’m living proof. If I can do it, others can do it too!”

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What is Occupational Therapy?

When it comes to health and rehabilitation professions, occupational therapists are truly a valuable resource.

Occupational therapy helps people optimize their ability to accomplish daily activities, through improving life skills following an injury or physical impairment. But there’s much more to occupational therapy than meets the eye – and in honor of National Occupational Therapy Month – let’s take a closer look.

What Do Occupational Therapists Do?

An occupational therapist works with people of all ages who are in need of specialized assistance because of physical, social, developmental, or emotional impairments. The occupational therapist helps patients lead more independent and productive lives by using daily activities such as self-care, work, play, and leisure as part of the therapeutic process.

A primary goal of an occupational therapist is to help patients improve their ability to carry out daily tasks. The occupational therapist will assess the patient’s home and work environment, and provide recommendations for how to adapt and lead a better quality of life. In short, occupational therapists help people with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities to live better lives.

What are Some Common Occupational Therapy Services?

  1. Occupational therapists often work with children with disabilities to help them participate fully in school and social activities.
  2. An occupational therapist may help someone who is recovering from an injury to regain needed day-to-day skills.
  3. The occupational therapist may provide support for older adults who are going through cognitive and physical changes.
  4. Occupational therapists will also do individualized evaluations, provide a customized rehabilitation plan, and ensure that outcomes are met throughout the rehabilitation process.
  5. While occupational therapists will sometimes directly treat injuries, they focus more often on helping the patient improve his or her life skills, while also incorporating adaptive tools that are sometimes created by the therapist.

Where Do Occupational Therapists Work?

An occupational therapist may work in a variety of settings, including: rehabilitation hospitals, nursing facilities, acute-care hospitals, outpatient clinics, home health, school systems, industry settings, and more. The types of places where an occupational therapist may work are growing annually.

In honor of National Occupational Therapy Month, we would like to thank all occupational therapists for what they do to help rehabilitate patients. We understand and appreciate the unique services that you provide!

 

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Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital Provides Nationally Recognized Care to Community for 11th Year in Row

For the 11th year in a row, Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital has been acknowledged for providing nationally recognized rehabilitative care to its patients. The hospital was ranked in the Top 10% of inpatient rehabilitation facilities nationwide for providing care that is patient-centered, effective, efficient and timely.

“This means that in the Northern Colorado area, we’re providing the highest level of rehabilitative care available anywhere in the United States,” says Elizabeth Bullard, CEO of Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. “Patients and their families don’t have to leave the area to receive the latest in technology and clinical protocols – we’re providing it here in our own backyard.”

The hospital was ranked from among 781 inpatient rehabilitation facilities nationwide by the Uniform Data System for Medical Rehabilitation (UDSMR). The UDSMR is a non-profit corporation that was developed with support from the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. UDSMR maintains the world’s largest database for medical rehabilitation outcomes.

“This national ranking speaks highly of the commitment and dedication of our employees and medical staff,” Bullard says. “Our staff is passionate about helping patients return home at their highest possible level of productivity and independence. And for anyone who has ever as had a family member or friend needing healthcare, that matters. We consider it a privilege to be able to provide this higher standard of care to our community.”

Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital provides specialized rehabilitative services to patients who are recovering from disabilities caused by injuries, illnesses, or chronic medical conditions. This includes strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and amputations, along with illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

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National Doctors’ Day

The world of medicine was changed forever on March 30, 1842, with the first documented use of anesthesia during surgery.

While the accomplishments of doctors has continued to evolve  – and amaze – since then, March 30 remains a special day in the world of medicine. After all, it’s now considered National Doctors’ Day – a day to recognize physicians and their countless contributions to society and their communities.

The first observance of National Doctors’ Day was in 1933, in Winder, Georgia. The wife of a local doctor wanted to have a day to honor physicians, and with the help of others, sent greeting cards and placed flowers on the graves of deceased doctors. Today, the red carnation is considered the symbolic flower for Doctors’ Day.

In 1991, President George H. Bush signed a bill that made National Doctors’ Day a day of celebration in the United States.

We’ll celebrate by giving thanks to the incredible doctors in our Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities and Long-Term Acute Care Hospitals. In both settings, our physicians are an integral part of the team that works with patients and their families to deliver the highest quality care possible.

Former Polish Prime Minister Eva Kopacz – who’s also a physician – wonderfully described the role of doctors as “a special mission, a devotion,” while saying that it called for “involvement, respect, and willingness to help all other people.”

Let’s all help celebrate National Doctors’ Day by giving physicians in our community a sincere word of thanks for their long hours, hard work, and constant care.

You can also observe this special day by using #NationalDoctorsDay to post on social media.

 

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The Role of Social Workers at Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities

To serve as a social worker means to serve in a variety of roles – usually on a daily basis. That’s certainly true of social workers who serve in inpatient rehabilitation facilities.

With March being National Social Work Month, it’s a great time to take a closer look at the many ways the nation’s more than 600,000 social workers serve the healthcare industry. And in an inpatient rehabilitation setting, where patients are recovering from disabling diseases, injuries, and chronic illnesses, social workers are an integral part of the medical team.

Social Workers in Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities

Social workers are key contributors in the rehabilitation and recovery of patients in inpatient rehabilitation facilities. Their roles may include:

  • The initial screening and evaluation of patients and families.
  • Helping patients and family members deal with the many aspects of the patient’s condition – social, financial, and emotional.
  • Helping patients and families understand their illnesses and treatment options.
  • Acting as an advocate for patients and families – including as an advocate for the patient’s health care rights.
  • Aid and expedite decision-making on behalf of patients and their families.
  • Educating patients on the roles of other members on their recovery team – including physicians, nurses, physical therapists, etc.
  • Crisis intervention
  • Providing a comprehensive psychosocial assessment of patients.
  • Educating patients and families about post-hospital care.
  • Helping patients adjust to their inpatient rehab setting.
  • Coordinating patient discharge and continuity of care following discharge.

Serving as a Patient/Family Advocate

As mentioned, one of the key roles that social workers serve in an inpatient rehabilitation setting is as a patient advocate. The importance of helping the patient understand and adjust to hospital procedures, understand medical plans, and assisting the patient’s family with financial planning is crucial.

The social worker’s role as an advocate also includes maintaining open lines of communication between the patient, family, and other members of the health care team. He or she also will learn each family’s dynamics while understanding its strengths – and encouraging the use of these strengths.

Indeed, the pressure on families as a loved one moves through the health care system can be intense and there’s a lot to learn in a short time. Social workers ease this pressure on all levels, whether it regards the plan of treatment or financial needs.

Studies have shown that the more informed the patient, the better healthcare decisions he or she will make during their treatment and post-recovery. In turn, this results in better long-term health outcomes while also saving money.

While some healthcare facilities will have trained volunteers serving as patient advocates, social workers are more qualified to serve in an advocate role based on their education, training, and experience. At Ernest Health Systems, we believe that social workers are an essential part of a patient’s recovery team.

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A Heart Attack’s Effect on the Brain

It’s estimated that someone suffers a heart attack approximately every 40 seconds in the United States – or about 720,000 people each year. While many heart attack victims recover and resume their normal lives, others have to deal with lingering physical effects, such as changes in the brain.

Specifically, heart attacks and other forms of heart failure can cause a loss of gray matter in the brain, and a decline in mental processes.

What Happens During a Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when blood that brings oxygen to the heart is cut off, or severely reduced. Coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart can narrow because of fat buildup and other substances. When an artery breaks, a clot forms around the substance and blood flow is restricted to the heart muscle.

Oxygen and the Brain

The brain needs adequate oxygen to function normally. Research has shown that brain cells begin to die when oxygen levels drop significantly low for several minutes or longer. After an extended period, a permanent brain injury may occur. This type of injury is known as an anoxic brain injury, or also cerebral hypoxia.

There are four types of anoxia – with each potentially leading to brain damage – including stagnant anoxia, in which an internal condition (such as a heart attack) blocks oxygen-rich blood from reaching the brain.

Cognitive Issues Associated with Heart Attacks

A recent study by Sweden’s Lund University said that half of all heart attack survivors experience memory loss, attention problems, and other cognitive issues. Lasting effects on the brain’s mental functions could even lead to possible dementia.

Brain scans done in similar studies showed that heart disease and heart failure might lead to losses of gray matter in the brain that are important for a variety of cognitive functions, which in turn lead to issues such as:

  • Memory Loss
    Most people who suffer an anoxic brain injury experience some short-term memory loss. The hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning new information, is extremely sensitive to a lack of oxygen.
  • Anomia
    Anomia refers to difficulty in using words, or processing the meaning of words. The patient may not remember the right word, or use a word out of context.
  • Poor Performance in Executive Functions
    Executive functions include reasoning, processing information, judgment, etc. For instance, the patient may become impulsive and indecisive.
  • Visual Issues
    Patients also may have trouble processing visual information.

Treatment

Immediate treatment is essential when dealing with cerebral hypoxia. The sooner the normal oxygen supply is restored to the brain, the lower the risk of brain damage. The type of treatment depends on the cause of the anoxic injury and may include:

  • Breathing assistance via mechanical ventilation and oxygen.
  • Controlling the heart rate and rhythm.
  • The use of medicines such as phenytoin, phenobarbital, valproic acid, or general anesthetics.

The patient’s recovery depends on how long the brain lacked oxygen. The patient might have a full return to function if the oxygen supply to the brain was blocked only for a short time. The longer a person lacks this oxygen supply, the higher the risk for serious consequences, including death, and severe brain injury.

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