Spinal Cord Injury Program Medical Director
Sam Ho, MD
Board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM & R), Dr. Ho has been the medical director of our Spinal Cord Injury Program since 1983, and has treated hundreds of patients with spine injuries. Known throughout the Midwest for his expertise in spinal cord injury, Dr. Ho is an associate clinical professor with Michigan State University’s Medical School Osteopathic and Human Medicine Department and has mentored many residents during their spinal cord injury rotation at Mary Free Bed. Dr. Ho is a member of the medical staff at all of the acute care hospitals in Grand Rapids, and served as a former Chief of Staff at Mary Free Bed. He is a frequently-requested speaker at medical conferences and was instrumental in starting Mary Free Bed’s Spasticity Program. He is active as a fellow with the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and as a member of the American Medical Association, the Michigan State Medical Society and the Kent County Medical Society.
Your nursing team includes registered nurses, who have additional rehabilitation and wound care certification, as well as nurse technicians. Our nurses specialize in rehab nursing; whether it’s mid-day or the middle of the night, your can count on them to:
• Provide competent, compassionate medical and personal care
• Educate you and your family regarding the impact of your injury on bodily functions
• Empower you and your family to become as independent as possible by teaching you techniques on how to best manage bladder and bowel functions, medications and skin care
Your occupational therapists (OTs) focus on helping you resume independence with daily activities. Those “Activities of Daily Living” (ADLs) may range from brushing your teeth and getting dressed to meal preparation and grocery shopping. Additionally, your OTs will:
• Evaluate and help you improve strength, muscle tone, coordination and dexterity
• Increase your level of independence by showing you new ways to do daily activities
• Issue and/or fabricate adaptive equipment
• Evaluate your home or job setting and provide recommendations for increased accessibility
Your physical therapists will evaluate your muscle strength, mobility and level of independence, then provide rehabilitation to:
• Strengthen muscles, build endurance and improve balance
• Help you move and transfer to and from surfaces (bed, furniture, car, wheelchair)
• Assess your need for specialized equipment (hospital bed, bathroom equipment, wheelchair, leg braces, walker) and help you choose and order what you need
• Train your family and caregivers on how best to assist you
Depending on the severity of your injury, you might be learning to walk again. Our physical therapists may work with you in our therapeutic pool or on one of our high-tech, sophisticated ambulation devices; the LokomatPro (robotic body weight supported treadmill training) or our Tollos or Zero G ceiling-mounted ambulation track systems.
While much of the focus will be on physical rehabilitation, your emotional well-being and problem-solving abilities are just as important. Our rehabilitation and neuropsychologists are available to:
• Help you and your family understand and work through adjustment issues related to your injury
• Assess whether your physical injury or medications have additionally impacted your thinking, memory or problem-solving abilities
• Work closely with your physician in determining any needs for medication adjustment regarding mood, pain or cognition
A registered dietitian will:
• Evaluate your nutritional needs and monitor your intake
• Provide education about your specific needs
• Explain the importance of healthy eating during your recovery
Members of the Nutrition Service staff can also help you select menu items for your diet.
Each of the rehabilitation doctors at Mary Free Bed is board-certified in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation. This medical specialty is called physiatry (pronounced fah-SIGH-ah tree).
While all have extensive residency or fellowship training treating patients with a wide variety of rehabilitation needs, each has special interest areas. Your physician is selected based on their level of expertise with your injuries or illness as well as other medical conditions you may have.
With the goals of improving oral intake, communication, respiratory support, cognition and problem-solving, your speech-language pathologists help you with:
• Eating and swallowing
• Speaking and improving breath support and respiratory function
• Learning, remembering and solving problems
In addition, your speech therapists on the spinal cord injury team may introduce you to assistive technology devices, applications or adaptations (smart phones, iPad, computer) that promote self-care, independence and your return to work or school.
Your care manager has years of experience providing individual and family counseling for people with spinal cord injuries and their loved ones. They additionally help you and your family:
• Learn about and adjust to the impact of your injury
• Make preparations for your return home
• Act as a liaison between your family , your treatment team and your insurance company representatives
• Provide information and referrals for community and other financial resources (accessible housing, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability)
• Obtain follow-up therapy or nursing care services
Therapeutic Recreational Specialists
Certified Therapeutic Recreational Specialists build on what other therapists do and help you get back into your community and resume, or expose you to, new leisure interests. They:
• Identify what activities you enjoyed before your injury or illness and create a plan to help you do those activities again
• Modify existing leisure or recreation equipment or help you try something completely new
• Take you on outings (movies, restaurants, sporting events, stores) to practice the skills you’ve been learning in therapy
• Introduce you to adaptive sports options (specialty clinics or teams) sponsored by our Wheelchair Sports Program
The Mary Free Bed YMCA, a national model for inclusion, features an accessible pool, exercise equipment and adaptive sports options. There you can meet and interact with others who are enjoying their lives.