Southern Regional Marks National Rehabilitation Week

Many people may take normal functions of the body such as movement of hands, walking or even sitting up straight for granted.

Those who suffer from disabilities may often depend on rehabilitation services to help reach independence and increase their quality of life, said Saloshni Pillay, director of rehabilitation services at Southern Regional Medical Center.

The medical center will recognize the "2011 National Rehabilitation Awareness Celebration" through Saturday, Sept. 24, added Amanda Bartlett, spokesperson for Southern Regional Health System. The celebration began on Sept. 18, she continued.

"It is a week where all rehabilitation services are recognized for the work they do," explained director Pillay.

According to Bartlett, the awareness celebration was created by the National Rehabilitation Awareness Foundation to educate the public about the benefits and the impact rehabilitation has among the community.

It was also launched to create programs for nearly 50 million Americans who suffer from disabilities, according to the foundation's web site, www.nraf-rehabnet.org. The foundation was established in 1996 by Allied Services, a non-profit healthcare system. The celebration has been sponsored by Allied Services since 1976.

Pillay said rehabilitation services at Southern Regional is composed of medical professionals such as physical therapists, occupational speech and language pathologists, rehabilitation nurses and rehabilitation medical doctors.

"It has a high impact on our patients," added Bartlett. "It so excites us to see them come in and then improve their quality of life."

The rehabilitation services department has both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs, said Pillay. Inpatient rehabilitation involves people who enter the hospital because of an illness such as a stroke, and are required to enter rehabilitation to regain the functions they've lost. Outpatient rehabilitation is for people who directly contact the hospital for a specific rehabilitation service, she explained.

Bartlett said for fiscal year 2011, rehabilitation services has had 29,766 patient visits.

Pillay said people in need of rehabilitation services at Southern Regional include orthopedic, neck and back surgery, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's disease and stroke patients.

Robin Jarvis, of Hampton, said she suffered from a stroke on April 19 while bathing her dog. She felt a cramp on her foot and fell down. Unable to feel her right side, she crawled to her phone and called her husband, she said.

She said her husband was close by and drove her to Southern Regional.

"A blood vessel in my brain popped," said Jarvis, who explained she suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke.

She said she was under the hospital's care for about five weeks, before she could begin her three-month rehabilitation.

Jarvis said since she was unable to move the right side of her body, she was taught how to do everything on her left side. Eventually, she performed other exercises that improved her walking, muscle strength and movement on the right side of her body. "You are teaching your brain how to do stuff all over again," she said. "It could get depressing but I didn't let it do that to me."

She said she has finished rehabilitation at Southern Regional but continues exercises at home to develop her strength and dominance of her right side. Daily at-home exercises include squats, walking, writing and molding clay with her hands.

"I am starting to do everything pretty good, but I still have a long way to go," said Jarvis.

Southern Regional's Bartlett said the hospital will recognize the awareness celebration in several ways.

Posters advertising the awareness week and professional pictures of rehabilitation services' employees will be displayed at the department, she said. Stories of rehabilitation patients will be posted on the hospital's web site, www.southernregional.org. "It is our way of spreading a little awareness throughout rehab week," said the spokeswoman.