The Meaning of Care Magazine

Generosity Powers New Therapy Gym at Methodist Hospital

Published: April 10, 2023

Carlton Jones measures his journey back home in hard-fought steps – 703 this particular day, a new record during his time in the Methodist Acute Rehabilitation Center.

“I’m like a workhorse around here,” he said. “I want to do everything.”

Carlton’s focus is regaining mobility and, in the meantime, adapting. Previously in “excellent shape,” he suffered a devastating heart attack in early December. It triggered a spinal cord stroke that left him unable to walk without assistance.

“My wife said I flatlined four times, and they brought me back,” he said.

He’s learning to adjust to life in a wheelchair while coaxing his body to move again. It’s a strenuous process, but Carlton has expert therapy and nursing teams guiding him and backing him up.

“The whole team here is helping me get back together and stay on track,” he said.

Carlton also has the support of hundreds of people he’ll never meet – the donors who funded essential upgrades to the therapy gym he’s visited each day since his arrival at Methodist on Dec. 28.

A simulated porch lets him practice climbing steps to a front door, a necessity once Carlton returns home. In a new replica of a furnished apartment, which was installed in 2022, he and other patients can work through daily activities like cooking, doing laundry and grabbing something from the refrigerator. Prior to the upgrades, occupational therapists relied on much smaller and outdated kitchen and laundry spaces for their patients' therapy work.

"The larger, more modern space allows for a more realistic simulation of home tasks such as cooking, cleaning and laundry," said Methodist Hospital occupational therapist Tricia Wesely, OT.

"By giving patients the opportunity to practice real-life situations, we're increasing their functional independence while giving them and their family the confidence necessary to return home and resume the things they need to do," added Methodist Hospital occupational therapist Mikala Pfeifer, OT.

Acute Rehab Simulated Porch
A simulated porch allows patients to practice climbing steps to a front door.

There’s also new equipment at his disposal, including the EksoNR robotic exoskeleton, the state-of-the-art rehab tool that allowed Carlton to take those 703 steps. The Nebraska chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles funded that enhancement.

“The upgrades are making such a difference for our patients and for us as therapists,” said Travis Eichenberger, PT, DPT, Carlton’s physical therapist. “We’re able to do the things we need to do more efficiently and accurately. We can get very, very close to the reality of what patients are going to face when they get home, which helps decrease their anxiety.”

Prior to the upgrade, the gym space was cramped and dated. There wasn’t much room for storage. It’s better organized and more efficient now.

Sarah Cockle, PT, DPT, Methodist Hospital’s service leader for therapy services, is thankful for the layers of support that made the update possible, including Methodist Hospital Foundation donors and Methodist Volunteers in Partnership (VIP). The VIP raised more than $737,000 for the therapy gym through various avenues: its annual galas and golf tournament fundraisers, gift shops, membership dues, and other donations. 

“Everyone who supported this project is enhancing the patient experience in the Acute Rehabilitation Center and opening doors to new patient populations to enhance their experience and recovery in the future,” Cockle said.

With his shirt damp with sweat after his latest therapy session, Carlton said he knows he has a way to go. But his mindset and support system are strong.

“I don’t know where I’d be without Methodist,” he said. “One day at a time, I’m coming back. It’s been real hard, but I have faith. I’m keeping my head up.”

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