Rancho patients don't let disasters keep them down

After a stroke paralyzed her left side, the only thought Redessa Harrell had on her mind was to regain its use, so she can go back to work as soon as possible.Another stroke victim, Margie Lopez, declared: "I know now more than ever how things are given, how things are taken away. We take so much for granted. We should really live life to the fullest, and go forward with hope." Diagnosed just last December with multiple sclerosis, Georgina Olvera said realization of her disabling illness "hit me like a ton of bricks, and not being able to drive as before or move about the way I used to drives me nuts!" All three were part of the 12th annual fashion show, "Midnight in Milan," presented last Thursday by Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, in which some 20-odd model/patients described-and in several cases, justifiably overcome by deep emotion, could only try to describe-how their lives took a horrendous, sudden turn when a disabling illness struck. One really lucky guy, Yancy Miller, straight-standing, well-dressed and spunky, was the first to speak. And, for some reason, he spoke at length. Among other things, sounding very well-educated and with a good sense of humor, he told of how his road to recovery has been paved with the usual administered strategy of hard therapy, diet, and rehab efforts of all concerned. But most of all, he said, after several months stay at Rancho, he saw how the patients' unconquerable spirit drives them onward in their attempts to regain their lost independence. As the rest of the participants one after another inched and/or shuffled forward with a cane or in their walkers (one or two were in wheelchairs), accompanied by their attending therapist and snatches of music of their choosing, tears rolled down their cheeks before they could even speak a word. When they did, their slurred speech betrayed their terrible sadness and their bewilderment at the losses they bore: loss of mobility, loss of the enjoyment of ordinary pleasures, loss of everything where only moments before they routinely enjoyed, etc. One particularly telling moment came when Sheila Fuentes, a 41-year old single mother of two, only with much difficulty and only with her therapist holding her up, was able to walk to the center of the stage and opened her mouth to speak amidst applause and cheers, but no words came out. Seconds after, she then just turned around and shuffled off the stage. She had suffered an internal carotid aneurysm almost two years before. Everybody perhaps by now knows about Rancho's established reputation, in U.S. News & World Report's rankings of rehabilitation medicine facilities as "one of America's best hospitals" precisely because of its commitment to the best cutting-edge therapeutic practices it can offer its inpatients and outpatients. Director of occupational & recreational therapy and USC graduate Bertha Cabral said Rancho's key approach is partnering with each patient, to help them achieve what's truly important to them. Defining how each person can cope with their illness, by focusing on their talents and expertise, and designing a program for their rehab is an important step. The uniqueness of Rancho, she said, is its package of continuing care, "something really not found elsewhere" and its package includes special training programs, innovative technology, vocational and drug programs, etc. The package, of course, includes physical therapy and communications disorder (speech, etc.) therapy as well. Even now, she said, Rancho is seeking ways and means, studying approaches and strategies, etc., to expand its range and cost effectiveness in delivering continuing care to its patients in a competitive health care environment. "The satisfaction I get after 25 years at Rancho," she said, "is seeing the patient take small steps in their rehab. There's never a dull day here, and there's never a day that I don't look forward to."

********** Published: August 26, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 19