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The Role of Rehab – Uncertainty to Regained Strength

Maria is an active woman with a history of diabetes and high blood pressure who has a heart attack and, unfortunately, suffers a mild stroke during her hospitalization. She is determined to get back to her home, work and family, but is unsure if she can. Maria is unsteady on her feet and is afraid she may have another heart attack. As part of her care, she is seen by the rehabilitation physician – a physiatrist – who reassures her that she can get her life back and spends time with her to explain her path to recovery.

When Maria is admitted for inpatient rehabilitation, she is introduced to a team of dedicated therapists, nurses and other specialists who work closely with her to help her regain her strength and to walk steadily. With the help of her physical and occupational therapists, Maria learns how to walk, dress herself and make her own meals. Her regained independence allows her to return home, where she can continue the recovery process with exercises.

Once she is home, Maria starts her cardiac rehabilitation program that teaches her about her heart and how she can manage her diabetes and blood pressure. The program encourages Maria to have a healthier lifestyle, and she begins choosing a healthier breakfast of yogurt with a fresh piece of fruit – instead of the egg, bacon and cheese sandwich she used to eat. She continues her exercises, and soon she has enough confidence and strength to walk a mile every day.

This story defines some of what rehabilitation medicine does and why I decided to become a rehabilitation specialist. Growing up, my family lived next door to one of the founding fathers of rehabilitation medicine, Howard Rusk. His stories of patients' triumphs over their disabilities inspired me to pursue a career in medicine and specifically rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation medicine is made up of passionate physicians, therapists and nurses who are dedicated to restoring function for our patients, improving their quality of life, alleviating discomfort and pain. It is this shared work in restoring people to their lives and function within their community that is the goal of every member of our team.

We gain our satisfaction from being able to help our patients get back to their normal function, so they can live their lives to the fullest. That feeling of satisfaction and happiness was exactly how I felt when Maria came back for a follow-up appointment. Six months after her heart attack, she is back to work, feeling better than ever and fully involved in her care. She has her life back and continues to make healthy choices every day to help her avoid another heart attack or stroke.

This is why I love my job!

Matthew N. Bartels, MD, MPH, is the Chair of the Department of Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine Department. He also is Professor and Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Posted by blogmoderator on 10/30/2013 at 1:56 PM Add Comment