Technology and expert staff form an unbeatable rehabilitation team at William Osler Health Centre

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Mrs. Genevieve Gage has one goal in mind these days – to be able to walk on her own again with the aid of a walker. To many of us this may not seem like a huge deal. But to Mrs. Gage it means the difference between existing and living.

Recently, the 77-year-old woman underwent orthopaedic surgery to replace a joint in her hip after a fall. Some pre-operative difficulties meant that she had to remain in bed for six weeks prior to having surgery done. During that time, her leg muscles had weakened so that when she finally had the surgery done and was admitted to inpatient rehabilitation, she required a lift device to get her out of bed.

“I really wondered if I would be able to walk again,” says Mrs. Gage. “It really upset me because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to go back home, I would have to go to a nursing home if I couldn’t manage to walk.”

Thanks to the rehab team who worked with Genevieve Gage, she could not only get out of bed on her own but was also able to walk with assistance. Her goal suddenly became reality. Within a few weeks of her admission to the inpatient rehabilitation unit at William Osler Health Centre’s Etobicoke Hospital Campus, a small miracle had taken place.

“If not for those girls I wouldn’t be mobile today,” says Mrs. Gage. “They worked with me every day and together we set goals like not having to use the lift machine and taking small steps, just like you do with an infant learning to walk for the first time. In my case, it was learning to walk again and believe it is much harder when your mind remembers how it should be but your body hasn’t quite got the hang of it. I can’t imagine not having this kind of help to get through something like this.”

We often talk about the changes in health care today. One of the changes that has occurred over the last 10 years is the increased role of allied health in the treatment of patients in an acute care setting. Today, the physiotherapist and occupational therapist are part of a multi disciplinary care team that helps people to get back to their lives much more quickly than ever before.

“I think what’s new today, especially in orthopaedic rehabilitation, is that we are right there working with the patient from day one following surgery and that benefits the patient because they are able to recover more quickly,” explains Alda Tee, physiotherapist at the Etobicoke Hospital Campus. “The physiotherapists and the occupational therapists are part of the team and we are there working with the nurses and the physicians and surgeons. In the past, rehabilitation took place a little later in the recovery process, sometimes at a different facility than the acute care hospital, so that patients would not have the benefit of starting their rehab sooner.”

One of the key benefits William Osler Health Centre offers patients is the opportunity to receive specialized care closer to home. Patients have access to rehabilitation services in the community with their family and friends at their side to help them in their recovery. Another benefit of the service is that since rehab is provided in an acute care setting, the surgeon can be involved in the rehab process and can monitor the recovery and provide consultation if required.

“The rehabilitation therapists are an essential part of the health-care team,” says Dr. Don McGonigal, Division Head of Orthopaedic Surgery at William Osler Health Centre. “There has been a steady increase in replacement surgeries in the past few years, particularly with respect to the knee. These patients require immediate and intensive post-surgical therapy to maximize their results and return them to home and community as soon as possible. We have recently established this process on the surgical ward at the Etobicoke Hospital Campus. The therapists and assistants can now work more effectively with patients to help patients to return home or prepare them for inpatient rehabilitation. I don’t think you can underestimate the positive effect the therapists have on the patient’s recovery. They are the professionals who help them regain their independence after surgery is complete.”

Equally important in the rehab process at William Osler Health Centre are the occupational therapists who work closely with patients following surgery to help them regain vital everyday activities that many of us take for granted. Taking advantage of today’s changing technology, occupational therapists at the Brampton Memorial Hospital Campus use a new system to help their patients recover more quickly.

William Osler Health Centre is one of the first hospitals in Ontario to have a Biometrics Upper Limb Exerciser System that is helping patients regain their self-confidence as well as their ability to perform routine functions like typing on a computer or improving range of motion following surgery as well as other conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome or stroke.

“The Biometrics Upper Limb Exerciser System is a computerized exercise program which promotes physical goals such as increased pinch and grip strength, range of motion, dexterity and manipulation,” explains Laurel Reid, Occupational Therapist at the Brampton Memorial Hospital Campus. “It is also a useful tool that is used to enhance eye-hand coordination, sequencing, memory and scanning skills.”

Using state-of-the-art computer and Digital Video Disk (DVD) technology the user can play a variety of computer games that help them to master aspects of their motor functions.

“It is a fun way for patients to ease back into using their limbs, fingers and brains following surgery to the hand, wrist or elbow. Therapists benefit from this technology as well because the software accurately grades activities by giving a baseline reading and then setting exact parameters for the therapist to follow. This is an exciting tool and made even more so because William Osler Health Centre was the first in Ontario and only the second in all of Canada to receive this system.”