This patient story is a little different from others because it has two parts. First, you’ll hear from the patient and his wife. After that, you’ll hear from a Rehab Without Walls® NeuroSolutions team member who worked with them. We hope you enjoy reading this inspiring story from two different perspectives.
On Christmas Eve, Don Chester, a 59-year-old hospital administrator and triathlete, was struck by a car while taking his daily run. In a reversal of the “no good deed goes unpunished” adage, he was taken to the hosptial where he worked as an associate administrator. There he was served by the trauma system he fought for more than a decade to establish and was treated by a trauma surgeon who is both a friend and colleague. The combination of all three saved his life, but Don’s spinal cord had been severed and he was paralyzed from the trunk down with use of his arms but no dexterity in his hands. After nearly six months of hospitalization and inpatient rehabilitation, he returned home in a wheelchair and began treatment with Rehab Without Walls.
From the patient and family perspective
Don’s wife, Sally Chester, R.N., M.S., had researched rehabilitation options and felt that Rehab Without Walls would be the best fit. “What attracted me to Rehab Without Walls was the multidisciplinary approach,” she says. “That and the fact that the therapists had lots of experience with spinal cord injuries. I didn’t want fragmented care, and I liked that the Rehab Without Walls clinical team was integrated, almost seamless.”
From Don and Sally’s perspective, the clinical team helped in a number of key ways:
Physical strength. “I needed help with strength, endurance, range of motion and balance,” says Don. “From the onset, the therapists focused on good technique so I’d get it right the first time. I felt like the therapists understood my strengths and limitations and were able to push me appropriately.”
Advocacy. “They were excellent advocates for getting Don what he needed,” says Sally. “For example, the clinical coordinator was able to negotiate with his insurance company for the appropriate number of visits and the right adaptive equipment.”
Safety and home accommodations. “A big focus was wheelchair management, along with ADLs such as safe transfers” says Don, “but the team helped me with so many of the smaller adaptations that affected my quality of life. This included helping me find the right gloves and weights for my hand exercises, a modified key for opening the door, a computer keyboard I could use, an office table that allowed me to work independently, even things like the best ways to carry my wallet so I could more easily access money and credit cards.” Another adaptation was bringing in a service dog that could compensate for Don’s loss of hand function. For example, the dog could open and close doors, retrieve items and pick up things that Don had dropped. “The Rehab Without Walls team helped integrate the dog into my routine,” notes Don.
Return to work and the community. Don was particularly eager to resume his many roles – at work, on boards, in his circle of friends and neighbors. “I wanted to get out as quickly as I could, so my therapists accompanied me on trips to work, the gym and on a variety of outings, teaching as we went along.” The team made a point of bringing people in Don’s life into treatment, from showing a friend who is also a personal trainer how to help with his exercise routine to working with his nurse’s aide on range-of-motion exercises. Because getting back to work was such a priority for Don, the therapists started with visits to the office almost immediately so they could implement safety measures and other accommodations and he could begin reacclimating.
Don’t acknowledges the Rehab Without Walls NeuroSolutions team for the high level of independence he has achieved to date. “Not only are they very good therapists,” he says, “but they are nice people. I always felt like I had a very nice security blanket.” From Sally’s perspective, she says, “I cannot imagine going through this experience without Rehab Without Walls. They made it very easy and facilitated many things that an organization giving us more fragmented care could not. The consistency of care was important, the advocacy was important and the way they saw us as a family was important. It was a very positive experience and we have already recommended Rehab Without Walls to several others.”