Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rehabilitation: The next step

I've had this post regarding rehab ready to go for a few days, but wanted to wait until we knew for sure where he would be going.  Today, finally, we got the green light from Bill's insurance company.  He leaves tomorrow morning!

I know that many of you have been wondering where Bill will go next and I haven't been very good at sharing this information.   My apologies for this, but it's been a tough decision with many different variables to consider.  These include distance from home/friends/family, length of stay, level of care, quailty of program, goals of rehabilitation, and finally insurance benefits.  We have settled on The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia.  We are disappointed that it is so far from home, but folks- I think it will definitely be worth it!  For one thing, it is a Model Systems Center for both spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury.  The Model Systems are funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and appear to be the best of the best.  They not only have to meet very high standards for excellence in care, but they also participate in research and other good stuff that is better described over here.  Because Bill has both a spinal cord injury as well as a traumatic brain injury, it makes sense to send him somewhere that addresses both.  This is not to say that his brain injury would not be evaluated at another rehabilitation facility, but I feel that it can be better handled at the Shepherd Center. 

The Shepherd Center takes more than 300 spinal cord injury patients each year and most of them have cervical injuries like Bill.  In addition, most spinal cord injuries are incurred by men between the ages of 18 and 30.  This means that he will immediately be in a group of peers, people who are his age with similar injuries.  I haven't asked him about this, but I would imagine that he feels a great deal of isolation in the ICU.  Not only does he not have any contact with other hurt people, but no one he sees has been through what he is going through.  We have no idea what his pain feels like, what ventilator weaning feels like, what waking up paralyzed feels like, or what he might be thinking about his future.  Not only will he receive excellent care there, but he will also meet people (50 or 60 of them) who are going through situations similar to his.

The Shepherd Center also has an amazing recreational therapy program.  Now, I don't think Bill is suddenly going to take up basketball (although you never know!) but he will be able to work with therapists and do the things he loves doing- fishing, kayaking, and even hunting!  Because he has always been such an active guy, it only makes sense to focus on being active again during his recovery.  We are all pretty excited about the opportunities he will have.

We don't expect any miracles from the Shepherd Center or any other rehabiliation facility.  It is clear from what research I've done that the quality of the rehabilitation facility is a strong factor in the ultimate outcome, but it is only one factor of many.  The 8-10 weeks Bill spends in rehabiltation will only be the beginning of his recovery.  It is here that he will begin to learn to come to terms with his injury and he will decide how to move his life forward.  He will learn learn all about his injury and how to mitigate the secondary complications that go along with it.  He will begin to retrain the muscles he can still use and find different ways of doing routine tasks.  He will meet people and make friends who are dealing with the same issues he faces.  As of now there is no cure for a spinal cord injury but if we position him so that he is healthy and strong both physically and mentally, then he will be ready should that cure come along.


  1. sarah, you know knoxville is only 3 hours from ATL, and often has cheap flights. you are always welcome at my place if you need a stopover point.

  2. Thanks for the offer Ann! I plan to go to Atlanta tomorrow with Bill and get him settled in. I will stay through the holidays and head back to Albuquerque after the first of the year. I'm not sure but I think my days of lazing around are coming to a close! If not then I will certainly think about a trip your way.

  3. Congrats & safe travels!

  4. Sarah, so good to hear Bill is ready to move on to the next step, will continue to pray for him and your family. Hope you will continue this blog to keep all informed of his progress. Safe travel to you and Bill,
    God's blessings to all, Jeanne

  5. Billy and family

    I am so glad you are moving on in your recovery. Sounds like the rehab place is a good match for you. I want you to know that so many people are praying for you and the family. The caring circle of the class of 77 Meadowbrook HS for one! Thanks for the blogs and I hope they continue. Althought we haven't had contact for a few years now ...do know Billy that you always have had a place in my heart! Luv ya...Joy Schumacher (Sarie's mom)

  6. Hey Sarah!

    Nashville is also a great stopping over point, if you are looking at cheaper flights. We have a guest bedroom just ready to go.

    Please let me know when Bill has an address in Atlanta, and I'll have my kids make another batch of cards. They loved the "my teacher has known someone for 20 years" aspect. Very strange for them. They'll be thrilled to do it again!