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Inpatient Rehabilitation Center: “Walk”: A Stroke Patient Stops at Nothing to Recover

When John Palmer, a 68-year-old financial planner from McLean, was admitted to the Inpatient Rehabilitation Center (IRC) at Virginia Hospital Center following multiple strokes, he couldn’t get out of bed, feed himself or even swallow; a feeding tube provided him with nutrition. His communication was limited to one-word answers.
“When John came in, I asked him, ‘What is your goal?’” recalls Cindy Oden, Program Director of the IRC and John’s physical therapist during his rehabilitation. “He said, ‘Walk.’ At the time, I wasn’t sure that was going to happen.”
That didn’t stop either of them — and the rest of the rehab team — from working toward that goal.
“I broke up tasks into small parts,” Oden says. “First, John learned how to roll and turn in bed and then sit up on his own in bed. Then we worked on transferring from the bed to a wheelchair, then simply standing.”
“Cindy was a sergeant,” John said. “I looked forward to physical therapy.”
After three to four weeks, he started taking steps, and “then his progress really sped up,” Oden says. “John would do anything I asked. He was motivated from day one.”
“Motivated” might be an understatement. John worked tirelessly with physical, occupational and speech therapists to retrain his body to do the simple things — sitting up, shaving, brushing teeth, cutting food, walking down the hall — that most people take for granted. He was supported around the clock by his wife, his two sons and his daughter. The IRC’s private rooms all have sleeper sofas, and a family member stayed with him to help with his rehabilitation.
“My daughter and son would video my sessions — they were there the first time I walked,” he said.
The IRC team encouraged and supported his family’s involvement, teaching them important caregiver skills they would need after John’s treatment at the IRC ended.
“Having a family member stay overnight at the Center makes for a safer discharge,” explains Jennifer Swenson, RN, IRC Patient Care Director. “The family can understand realistically what is involved in their care. Eighty percent of our patients are discharged back to home. That’s higher than regional and national benchmarks.”
As John made progress, the team made adjustments in his treatment and his medications. They constantly looked for new ways to help him increase his range of mobility.
“They were always evaluating and asking where they could help me improve more,” John says.

That’s the way the team at the IRC approaches the treatment of every patient, says Edward Allcock, DO, Medical Director of both the IRC and Outpatient Rehabilitation, and a member of the Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group.
“Everyone on the team, from physicians to therapists to nurses, takes great pride in providing quality care with a positive attitude for the best patient outcomes,” Dr. Allcock adds. “Our staff is always thinking about making their experience a healing one, and giving patients and their families the abilities and confidence to succeed.”
John’s success — and his rehab regimen — continued at home. Within two months after he was discharged from the IRC, John was back at his job as a financial planner; after just four months, he started driving again. Today, his ongoing physical therapy is doing Pilates three times a week. He also spends time on the basketball court.
“I used to be quite a basketball player,” John says. “Before I go to Pilates, I dribble 300 times with one hand and then with the other. After Pilates, I try and make shots.”
John’s amazing recovery from what could have been catastrophic strokes is “a testimony to the skills, compassion and dedication of the team at the IRC. This was a complete team effort,” Dr. Allcock says.

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