Complex Rehabilitation Unit helps patients recover one step at a time

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George Nesbitt is taking things one step at a time these days but he doesn’t mind a bit. In fact, the 78 year old is just happy to be back on his feet after spending more than two months in the hospital battling hyperglycemia and a venous ulcer that doctors thought might cost him his leg.

Initially, Mr. Nesbitt was admitted to Hamilton General Hospital when his diabetes rendered him nearly comatose. For more than a month, Mr. Nesbitt stayed at the General where he received care for both his diabetes and an ulcer on his leg that had been gradually worsening since it first appeared as a small blister in April 2005. By the time he arrived at the General, the ulcer had expanded and deepened. Tendons on the back of Mr. Nesbitt’s leg were exposed and both he and his doctors feared his leg would have to be amputated.

Under the care of vascular surgeon Dr. Claudio Cina and others at the General, Mr. Nesbitt gradually began his recovery. The Geriatric Consultation Team eventually suggested he be transferred to the Complex Rehabilitation Unit at the Henderson General Hospital where he began the rigorous and demanding process of regaining his strength and learning how to walk again.”The first day I took 20 steps,” said Mr. Nesbitt who prefers to go by his middle name Wesley. “Yesterday, I took 426 steps.”

Mr. Nesbitt credits a very dedicated team of doctors, physiotherapists and other allied health professionals with his tremendous progress. And in fact, he is just one of many patients who experience the benefits of intense rehabilitation when admitted to the Complex Rehabilitation Unit.

“The goal is to improve the function of our patients and overview all of their medical issues and medications that may impact on their ability to cope at home,” said geriatrician Dr. Alexandra Papaioannou. “By the time they leave, you often don’t even recognize the patients and that’s a wonderful thing.”

The 14-beds dedicated to Geriatric Rehabilitation see admissions from right across Hamilton Health Sciences. Although like Mr. Nesbitt, these patients are typically admitted with very specific health issues, once they have received the type of acute care they need, they are often transferred to the Henderson to undergo rehabilitation and receive additional care.

Taking a holistic approach to patients is a key focus of staff in the unit. This means that everything from medical conditions to cognitive issues and medications is addressed during the recovery process. It also means that rehabilitation programs are customized for patients to help them meet their goals.

The road to recovery is not an easy one and it is generally paved with a lot of hard work. For example, Mr. Nesbitt spends an hour or more each day in the unit’s gym doing exercises designed to help him rebuild his strength in targeted areas. His legs and upper body have been the focal points as he transitioned from a wheelchair, to a walker and finally a cane.

“I’m a bit of a back-slider by nature,” he said smiling. “The staff here have really pushed me and I’ve certainly had the help that I needed.”

In addition to working with him in the hospital, staff have also taken him back home to determine what type of equipment and support he will need once he moves back. During a recent visit, Mr. Nesbitt and both his nurse and physiotherapist determined he needed to spend a little more time in the hospital before he would be ready to go home. It was disappointing news for Mr. Nesbitt who misses his wife terribly but he also wants to be sure he’s ready to make the transition successfully when the time comes.

“The fact is I’m going to get home and that’s something I never would have believed when I was admitted in November,” he said. “The staff here have just taken my body and completely turned it around. They’ve been absolutely wonderful.”

In the interim, he will continue to work on regaining his strength and mobility. He’s also relieved that the ulcer on his leg is healing nicely.

“My leg is still with me and I’m quite happy to have it,” he said. “I’m even happier that I’m getting to use it.”