Finding the right balance: Providence Healthcare’s new mobility clinic

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Radiation treatments for bone cancer at the age of 11 precipitated a condition that resulted in the amputation of Kevin Clancy’s right leg at age 48. Clancy remembers waking up on November 16, 2008 and noticing that his right foot was unusually cold. “Some of the toes had turned blue,” he recalls. “Ever since I had cancer, I’ve had poor circulation in that leg, but nothing like this.”

He was taken to an acute-care hospital the same day, where doctors discovered that only one artery was working. The decision was quickly made to remove the leg above the knee. The surgery was done November 23, and within 10 days, Clancy was transferred to Providence Hospital’s Amputee Rehabilitation program to begin rehab. Providence Hospital is one of the three integrated care divisions within Providence Healthcare in Toronto’s east end that also offers long-term care and community outreach services.

During his two months at Providence, Clancy was fitted with a prosthetic leg, and made a couple of trips home to determine what changes would need to be made to ensure a smooth transition home. Another step taken to ensure a smooth transition home was introducing Clancy to Providence’s newest service, the Mobility Clinic, where he met with his new physical and occupational therapists.

The new Mobility Clinic is designed for outpatients of Providence Hospital with muscular-skeletal impairments. It ‘fills the gap’ that opens once a patient returns home by continuing to support their therapy needs within a safe, professional, and compassionate environment.

There are two ultimate goals for the Clinic. The first is to provide individualized health-care services to improve functional abilities and promote independence. The second, more important goal, is re-integrating clients into their community and giving clients back their confidence and freedom to take charge and manage their own health care and new lifestyles.

“Kevin was confident while at Providence or at home, but there was a lot of fear each time he faced a new, public environment,” explains Clancy’s wife Christie. “For example, we had to go shopping for a light bulb, but Kevin was hesitant. He knew they were stocked at the back of the hardware store. But he did it – he summoned the confidence he needed to walk to the back of the store, find what he was looking for, get back to the car and return home.” A weekend trip to the hardware store is something we take for granted, but a milestone for someone learning to walk again after the sudden loss of a leg.

The Clinic helps people overcome fears by instilling a sense of independence through using innovative rehabilitation equipment and best practices. Physiotherapist Dellene Sakaguchi says, “Strengthening exercises help patients learn how to trust their balance again. We use tools such as a ‘core pole’ for total body conditioning.” The Clinics’s state-of-the-art gymnasium includes a variety of rehabilitation equipment, a mock kitchen and laundry room for training purposes, and a Sony Wii game system to strengthen muscles and enhance dynamic balance skills in a fun way.

“We take the time to learn about what each person’s day-to-day life involves then reintroduce them to these activities, and adapt them however necessary,” explains occupational therapist Lynne Mycyk. Staff introduced and adapted exercises and activities that would help Clancy get back to the things he loves doing, such as golfing, cooking and participating in the drum corps.

Staff members also help clients understand their injuries, their rehabilitation goals, and their achievements. Education fosters understanding; when clients see the ‘big picture’, they develop a belief in what they are doing, thereby increasing their chance of success. Beyond the physical rehabilitation provided, a sense of camaraderie and hope permeates the clinic. Clients of the service encourage each other’s progress and celebrate achievements.

With 347 beds, Providence Hospital is one of the largest rehabilitation hospitals in Ontario, and the Amputee Rehabilitation unit alone discharges up to 80 patients annually. The new Mobility Clinic is Providence’s solution to ensuring a smooth continuum of care on the patient’s journey to recovery.