DOWNEY - For the 21st consecutive year, Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center has been named one of "America's Best Hospitals" in Rehabilitation Medicine in the prestigious U.S. News & World Report rankings for 2010-2011."Rancho is the only public rehabilitation hospital, and the only rehab facility based in California or any of our neighboring states to be ranked in the top 20 on this year's list of top Rehabilitation hospitals," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe. "Congratulations to the entire Rancho Los Amigos team for demonstrating every day that Rancho has the "best" patient care of any rehabilitation facility in our state." Rancho moved up one spot this year to 17th in the current rankings. Rancho has been in the Top 20 in Rehabilitation Medicine every year since the U.S. News & World Report survey began more than two decades ago. Rancho's Chief Executive Officer, Jorge Orozco, said, "Rancho has a proud heritage of excellence in patient-centered care. This latest honor is another testament to the outstanding work being done every day by the Rancho staff. Our national ranking is also indicative of the courage and commitment our patients show each and every day as they work to overcome their disabling conditions, to set new goals and to achieve their dreams." The stories that follow, told in the words of Rancho's patients, illustrate some of the amazing achievements that have led to national and international recognition for Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center: Erik Sorto: "Eight years ago, I was driving home from telephone-repair training when I was ambushed at an East Los Angeles intersection. My passenger, a fellow gang member, was killed. I was shot between the shoulder and neck and was paralyzed from the neck down. I knew right away I couldn't move, couldn't speak. I underwent throat surgery and now I speak through the trachea with an electronic voice box. I also knew I was done with gangs forever."' "After undergoing successful rehab at Rancho, I enrolled at Valley College in Van Nuys. I graduated last year with my A.A. degree, and now I'm studying for my Bachelor's degree at Cal State Northridge with the goal of becoming a juvenile probation officer. "I even wrote a book with Professor William Wallis, called "Payback: The Cost of Being a Gangster," about what happened to me and how I'm dealing with it. Now I'm a Rancho volunteer and I look forward to being part of Rancho's KnowBarriers Violence Prevention Outreach Program so I can help kids avoid making the mistakes I made." David Rodarte: "I was paralyzed in a car accident at age 19, and joined the Rancho Wheelchair Sports team while I was a Rancho inpatient. After a few months, I was in the lineup for wheelchair football and basketball, which are extremely high contact sports. I relished the physical nature of these sports, and I wanted to give back. "I soon became a mentor for our junior team members and spent time encouraging newly injured patients at Rancho. I also excelled in the classroom. I just completed my Bachelor's Degree in Sociology from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). I continued my athletic career at Illinois, where our wheelchair basketball team won all but one of our 32 games. Our season culminated by being crowned the 2009-10 National Wheelchair Basketball Association Champions! "This fall I'm moving to Europe to play professional wheelchair basketball in the Spanish First Division League. My ultimate athletic goal is to compete for a spot on the U.S. Basketball Team that will represent our country at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. When my athletic career is over, I plan to pursue a Master's Degree in Human Resources. Rancho helped me learn that I could take my life to limitless horizons, and that is exactly what I am doing!" Zinthia Alvarado: "I was born in Los Angeles, but when I was 7 years old, I moved to El Salvador with my mother. While there, I was in a terrible accident. I was sitting in the front seat without a seat belt when our car was hit by a bus. I suffered a major spinal cord injury and was diagnosed with paraplegia. "Many years later, I returned to L.A. and since then, Rancho has become my home away from home. After having surgery, I was sent to Rancho for rehabilitation. I was an inpatient for treatment of scoliosis, and I am now a Rancho outpatient. "I love Rancho, because it is a place of magic for me and many of my friends. My friends in the adolescent support group are always there for me. The KnowBarriers program taught me how to set and reach goals. In the Don Knabe Pediatric Arts Program I not only learned how to paint and take interesting photographs, I discovered how to express myself in many new ways. Now I also participate in the Art of Rancho program. "I have made several trips to El Salvador to mentor children with disabilities. I am committed to help provide wheelchairs to every child who needs one. I am working with Wheels for Humanity to help make this dream a reality!" Ann Ruth: "I was injured in a gymnastics accident at age 5, which left me unable to move my arms and legs and breathe normally. I spent nine months at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. With these new life challenges, I was faced with learning how to live and breathe again. Due to the love and support from my family and a dear friend, I learned to breathe without a respirator. "I also spent my time finding new outlets for fun and enjoyment. I discovered the talents I possessed and learned how to paint with a mouthstick, creating a variety of oil paintings which developed into my own line of greeting cards. "I graduated from USC and earned my MBA at Pepperdine. I worked for IBM, owned a restaurant, and am currently working for a computer forensics firm. I was the youngest recipient of the Governor's Trophy, and today I serve on many nonprofit and governmental boards and statewide committees. "My hobbies include attending social events, traveling to exotic places, having fun in the sun, attending sporting events with my favorite teams (the Lakers, Dodgers, and the Kings), skydiving, hang-gliding and dune buggy riding." Jay Cramer: "I was rock climbing in Malibu when I slipped and fell. I hit my head on a rock and suffered a major spinal cord injury. Although my body was broken, my therapists at Rancho helped me keep my spirits high. "While I was still a patient at Rancho, I decided to try my hand at stand-up comedy, something I had thought long and hard about but never had the courage to try. Early in my 'stand-up' career, I closed a sold-out show at Second City, Los Angeles and was awarded Best New Comedian in Los Angeles for 2007. I have since won many other comedy awards. I have had the privilege of opening for Martin Lawrence, and I have also worked with many other top comedians. "But the best thing that happened at Rancho is that I met my wife! We have worked together on a television pilot and we feel the sky's the limit for our future in the entertainment industry. I am also very proud of my role as director of the recent Performing Arts of Rancho show. We are now planning to expand this wonderful program so that even more patients can become involved." These stories are exceptional, but they are part of a much larger story that is being written every day by the incredible accomplishments of Rancho's patients. "Rancho provides the hope and expertise to help our patients recover function and hope, but it is our patients who are truly responsible for the miracles that happen every day here," said Rancho Chief Medical Officer Mindy Aisen. "The bottom line is that the successes of our patients translate to creating and maintaining a reputation as one of the best rehabilitation hospitals in the world. "The entire Rancho team is committed to building upon this legacy as we push the envelope both in technology and treatment to create the best possible outcomes for our patients."
********** Published: July 22, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 14