Lynne’s injuries were serious and required extensive rehabilitation. She had fractured her pelvis, both wrists, seven ribs and separated her shoulder. She also had nine fractures in three fingers on her left hand. Lynne’s road to recovery was going to be long. Fortunately, Lynne and her family decided she would continue her rehabilitation journey with Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital Network. She began with a two-week stay at Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital in Salem, NH, an acute inpatient rehabilitation hospital. This was followed by regular visits from Northeast Rehab’s Home Care team and once she had met more milestones, she continued at Northeast Rehab’s Outpatient Rehabilitation clinic in North Andover.
Choosing Northeast Rehab
“I was overcome by the realization that for the first time in my life, as an athlete, wife, and mother, I was unable to do anything for myself, let alone for my family,” recalled Lynne.
When Lynne’s doctors recommended that she move to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital to continue her physical rehabilitation and medical care she immediately felt a pit in her stomach. “I could tell my husband was terrified about what this truly meant for my future. I knew in reality I would be a burden at home. Both hands and wrists were wrapped all the way up to my fingertips. I could barely take a deep breath and I couldn’t lift my right arm or right leg. The prospect of putting a straw to my lips for some liquid or adjusting myself even an inch in any direction of the bed made me feel frustrated and the actual action caused much discomfort.”
While they were considering the options, Lynne’s husband’s Cardiologist recommended Northeast Rehab. “His genius recommendation was pivotal,” recalls Lynne. “Little did I know that Northeast Rehab would provide me with a new sense of being, appreciation, and wonder at all that went on inside a rehab center.”
A New Mantra Motivates
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” This quote, by Theodore Roosevelt, was written on the white board in Lynne’s room at Northeast Rehab in Salem and she immediately noticed it when she arrived. “This quickly became my new mantra,” said Lynne.
The transition to Northeast Rehab in Salem went smoothly. Lynne appreciated that the hospital is tucked in a neighborhood and off a main road so it was easily accessible. “Multiple nurses appeared like angels, tucking me in, taking my vitals, giving me pain medication and offering me a dinner menu. My bed was next to an enormous clean, glass window to the world I was missing but would soon be embracing. My daily view was filled with the vibrant fall foliage, bumblebees, and the familiar sounds of the grounds being mowed.”
From the beginning, Lynne did everything she could to take care of herself. “I am a proud woman and an impatient patient. As a personal trainer, competitor and smother mother, it was not in my nature to accept help. I insisted on doing as much as I could by myself,” said Lynne. “The staff handled everything with kindness and understanding.”
The First Full Day
Each night a schedule for the following day is shared with patients. “It was nice knowing what to expect the following day,” said Lynne. “A nurse helped me get ready for my first PT/OT session. I remember deliberately putting on my treasured ballcap from my last race. Yes, it hid my bedhead but it also reminded me who I was.”
Lynne’s day started with OT and continued with PT. “The OT presented me with a toothbrush, soap, washcloth and a big smile! I had no idea that would absorb the entire 45-minute session and I will never forget what followed,” said Lynne. “I had just flopped into the wheelchair and it was time for PT. The therapist said ‘Just pull yourself by digging in your heels.’ I propelled my broken body as quick as I could and just grinned. I remember thinking, yes, another goal accomplished.”
That day in PT Lynne observed other patients working diligently with therapists who encouraged them and praised them. “They would clap and hoot for even the smallest of accomplishments,” said Lynne. “It gave me pause. Therapists are really special people. There is no room for them to be anything other than upbeat and positive. Day in and day out they coach us and encourage us while we struggle to meet physical and even mental goals.”
In Lynne’s room she had a calendar and a white board. Her personal goal to “walk normally” was written in green on the whiteboard. “It was there because they cared enough to ask and it served as a reminder for me every day,” she said.
Memorable Moments and Milestones
During her stay Lynne could often be found documenting her personal experience with pictures of her progress. “I always carried my phone. It was important for me to show my children that I was going to be okay and home soon,” said Lynne.
“I know that my accident could have been so much worse. I am alive. At Northeast Rehab I found that the staff shared this same attitude. The halls were full of smiles and support, ‘Good Job’, ‘You’re a winner’, ‘You got this’, ‘Way to go’. Like floating life preservers, I grabbed onto those words and rode the waves every day.”
Support from the Team
With NRHNs medical management and comprehensive care team, Lynne had access to the care she needed. “The care was very specific to my unique condition and needs. It was not cookie cutter and I could feel the difference. Everyone was focused on my journey – the therapists, nurses and physicians.”
The specialized medical care provided contributed to Lynne’s overall healing and rehabilitation. “A pulmonary specialist would come in to train me on the spirometer to avoid lung problems with my broken ribs. I was anxious to hit the marks and puffed along as often as possible.” In addition, Lynne recalled meeting with a hospitalist and physiatrist. “I had some risks due to my trauma and limited mobility. He provided useful information to help me understand the steps we could take. He was pleasant, patient, knowledgeable and had an outstanding communication ability.”
Lynne also recalls the support provided when she wanted to push herself further. “I requested a PT/OT session. There was more work to be done and the team supported me. The same was true with my physicians. They were pleasant, knowledgeable and had outstanding communication.
In my room all the little things to keep me comfortable were completed without hesitation.”
Upward and Onward
Lynne decided early on to focus on her potential and not on her limitations. This greatly contributed to her success. The NRHN team also fostered this same mentality. Goals are defined upon arrival and milestones outlined. Once these are met a patient may graduate from the Inpatient Acute Rehabilitation Hospital to the next level of care or home.
“My last goal was to walk up and down stairs,” reflected Lynne. In the therapy room Lynne had access to a mock set of stairs with railings on both sides, a kitchen set up, a bed and a table and chair. This spacious, realistic setting provides a great place for patients to practice their activities of daily living.
I walk slowly, but I never walk backwards.” – Abraham Lincoln
Up with the good, down with the bad. This was Lynne’s stepping mantra. “We headed out to the curb next. As I slid my foot down and grasped my crutch beside my wobbly leg, my therapist gently placed her hand behind my back, not so much for support but for me to know she was there if I needed her. My last feat was stepping up on a large wooden block.” Up. Up. Down. Down. Ten times and more. “In that moment, a few tears unexpectedly rolled down my face onto the block as I smiled. I was going home tomorrow.”
A New Chapter and New Goals
Lynne could still hear the voices of NRHN team members as she returned home, “As I exited the car, I took each step carefully through the garage then gazed up at the looming flight of stairs, 13 of them. Up with the good, Up with the good.”
Receiving care at Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital was without question the right step for me. This amazing team helped to put me back together. It’s such a humbling experience and truly remarkable what these complete strangers give of themselves to help you. I think of them all as family and am so glad that my family and I chose Northeast Rehab.”
Continued Care and More Strides
The following day, OT, PT and a Nurse from Northeast Rehab’s Home Care visited Lynne. “I was given a weekly schedule with my sessions. Emergency phone numbers and a medication organization were set up before they left,” said Lynne. In addition, a Home Health Aid visited Lynne at her house and worked with the therapists to help Lynne continue progressing in her personal care and mobility goals. Their visits also gave her husband a break.
“Once I was capable of standing on my deck and bearing weight, I descended stairs to my yard, went to the driveway, the mailbox and from there I set and met different goals,” said Lynne. Her efforts also included arm chair and standing exercises.
Lynne became stronger and the healing time for her hand came to a close. A hand therapist joined her home care team and together they began that recovery journey.
Initially, living accommodations had been set up in one room for Lynne. Now she was ready to return to her bedroom. The team worked with Lynne to help her accomplish this next step, which was significant for her and her family.
“My daughter never spoke of it, but when I walked into her room that night and hoisted myself alongside her, I felt her body relax as we whispered in the dark. Mine did too. She fell asleep with me there and I knew that without therapy, this moment of peace would not have been achieved if I was left to linger in a lesser facility,” reflected Lynne.
With Lynne’s new found independence and limited need for her crutch, she graduated from Home Care to Outpatient Therapy at Northeast Rehab in North Andover.
Lynne began day one of outpatient therapy with great enthusiasm. “I remember being thrilled to see a ramp, railings and an automatic door. Staff at the desk were helpful and kind. That day I met with my hand therapist, Patti, who I worked with three times a week for 11 months. I appreciate how imperative it is to NRH that the patient meet their goals with little to no pain.”
Hand therapy is highly customized. Casts, splints, finger stretches and braces are custom crafted almost weekly as a patient’s hand changes in shape and size (growing strength) throughout therapy. “Patti was vastly experienced but by no means coddled me. She was clear, if we didn’t do the work, my goals would not be achieved. Through our efforts I was able to bend a few knuckles, stroke my cat and felt the nerves beginning to respond where they had gone numb post surgery.”
Lynne’s injuries were considered a polytrauma. In addition to working with a hand therapist, Lynne also worked with Sue, a physical therapist, on balance, gait, mobility, flexibility and strength. “She supplied me with resistance bands to take home, a treatment plan with detailed exercised including reps and sets to perform. She applied heat when the session began and ice before heading out.”
The effects of the therapy were evident in Lynne’s spirit. “I took extra time in the shower to make myself presentable on the days I headed to therapy. I could now get my hair in a ponytail clip, put a sweater on over my head and apply lipstick.”
Six months had passed since Lynne’s accident when COVID hit. “I had been in my surgeon’s office regularly and he could see me becoming more like the athlete and person I was prior to the accident. He extended my sessions with Northeast Rehab’s Outpatient Services without hesitancy,” said Lynne. During the early months of COVID when healthcare offices were required to close down, Lynne was able to continue her therapy through telehealth sessions.
“Patti asked me what I wanted to get out of our last hand therapy session. I wanted to make a fist. I was still dropping glasses, frying pans, etc., due to my grip. Mission accomplished.
Moving Forward, Accomplishing Goals
By the time Lynne completed her outpatient therapy sessions she was back to biking, swimming, jogging and lifting weights.
“When I was able to start hiking and getting outside again, I would find myself in these peaceful places, quiet, alone and thinking about “why” this happened,” said Lynne. “Now, I think about how this experience has changed me. The transformation is wonderful in so many ways. I can make my son’s bed, pick a tomato, drive to my ailing mother’s, pour coffee into a new mug, stroke through the water. Thank you NRHN for teaching me, staying the course with me and never letting go of my hand until it was time.”