Special rehabilitation program allows patients to help each other along road to recovery

Patrice Persaud-Csath is a proud mother of four, a loving wife, a hard-working manager, an energetic concert goer, and a nature and outdoor enthusiast. She is also a courageous survivor of a serious automobile accident. Though her accident was traumatic and nearly fatal, Patrice has learned not to let it define her as a person, nor prevent her from performing the day-to-day activities she loves.

Using the tools she learned in the Road to Recovery Program at St. John’s Rehab Hospital, Patrice has achieved independence, confidence, and a winning attitude that is helping her get back to a fulfilled life.

An October 2008 automobile accident left Patrice with serious injuries over her entire body including broken ribs, breastbone, pelvis, right leg and ankle. Patrice was bedridden, had permanent scars on her legs and back, and was worried that she would never be able to walk or even stand again without assistance.

After two weeks at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, she was admitted to St. John’s Rehab Hospital’s trauma rehabilitation program, where she partook in two months of intensive inpatient rehabilitation.

She then began participating in Back on Track – St. John’s Rehab’s outpatient program for people who have been involved in traumatic motor vehicle and work-related accidents. A multidisciplinary team of rehab professionals worked with Patrice on her strength, balance and mobility.

Although she made excellent progress every day, Patrice felt discouraged and confused. “I knew I couldn’t go back to the way my life was before, and that was difficult to accept. I needed help in finding a balance that suited my new needs.”

Patrice’s team felt that she would greatly benefit from the Road to Recovery Program – a nine-step, nine-week group workshop that teaches coping skills and techniques to people recovering from serious injuries.

Road to Recovery was developed at St. John’s Rehab Hospital in 1998 after an increase in serious injury referrals. Health professionals began noticing that patients were experiencing similar psychological and social challenges. Studies showed that group-based counselling was an effective addition to therapy, allowing patients to share their stories, develop friendships, and learn new techniques that help others in similar situations.

“It’s one thing to talk with your therapist about your issues. But being able to interact with others who have gone through the same thing is absolutely vital. The sharing of information, the camaraderie, the humour – it’s all part of the healing process and getting through it together,” explains Patrice.

Road to Recovery is a goal-oriented program that is geared towards Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), and motor vehicle insurance clients. The program focuses on common challenges experienced by trauma survivors and addresses issues such as mood changes, depression, chronic pain, problems with sleep and appetite, social withdrawal, relationships and anger.

Road to Recovery is facilitated by a nurse and social worker skilled in post-trauma group therapy. Loretta Kennedy, Registered Nurse explains, “Dealing with the effects of a serious accident without the proper resources can cause emotional distress and can lead to further onset of illness, poor quality of life, or increased visits to the hospital. We help them get away from painful thoughts and focus on positive development.”

Every participant is provided with home-based activities and weekly tasks that are discussed in the following session. These weekly exercises help participants determine appropriate strategies to address common emotional and social challenges.

“The program presents you with other ways of looking at things and handling different situations,” explains Patrice. “How do you cope with strangers staring at you and asking you what happened? How do you plan out your day so you can include rest periods? How do you feel comfortable in a bathing suit at the community pool?”

An important element includes having a Return to Work Coordinator join the group in the final session. Together, they discuss techniques to help participants feel confident and productive when back in the workforce.

Sandy Cayne, Social Worker, explains, “Patients often fear that they will return to work only to later lose their job because of their injury. They worry about being ignored or treated unfairly by colleagues. We discuss how to cope with these issues in a positive way, so that they can be successful at work.”

As Patrice completes the final steps of the program and returns to her family, her work and her daily activities, she feels proud of what she has achieved. “The program changed my whole outlook on life and cleared the way for development, growth and emotional well-being. You are provided with lifelong tools that won’t disappear when you leave. The Road to Recovery Program truly becomes part of your life.”

Visit www.stjohnsrehab.com or call 416-224-6949 for more information on the Road to Recovery program.