Stroke Program Medical Director
Benjamin Bruinsma, MD, is director of the Mary Free Bed Stroke Program and has been a staff member with us since 1989. He also specializes in orthopedic and amputee conditions. Dr. Bruinsma serves as a fellow for both the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the American Association of Electrodiagnostic Medicine.
Your stroke nursing team includes:
• Nurse manager
• Registered nurses
• Nurse technicians
These professionals’ areas of focus include:
• Working with you and your family on health and medication education
• Pain management to help keep you as comfortable as possible
• Other matters crucial to your health and well-being
Your occupational therapist (OT) will help to increase your level of functional independence by teaching you new ways to accomplish self-care activities like getting dressed and brushing your teeth, home management skills such as cooking, and how to perform daily activities with the least amount of energy. Your therapist will work closely with you as you relearn to use the affected side of your body and in evaluating your vision and perception.
A physical therapist (PT) in the Stroke Program will evaluate your mobility skills and provide training for daily life activities. Your therapist may teach you how to safely use a wheelchair or work with you on learning to walk and manage stairs. You and your therapist will work together to relearn how to use the side of your body affected by the stroke. Family members are encouraged to attend and participate in your therapy sessions so they can learn how to help you be as independent as possible.
A rehabilitation psychologist has expertise in evaluating right and left brain damage that may affect how you think and perceive things after a stroke. While much of the focus will be on physical and cognitive rehabilitation, we’re also concerned about your emotional well-being after a stroke. A psychologist can help you and your family through the adjustment issues that you’re likely to face. Depression is a common occurrence after stroke. Our psychologist can help you come to grips with the effects of your stroke and will determine your need for medication.
Because a stroke may affect how you participate in certain leisure and social activities, we have recreational therapists to help you adapt and, if necessary, find new ways to enjoy your leisure time. This may include clinics for seasonal golf or kayaking, or other adaptive sports. Your recreational therapist also may take you on outings into the community, where you can practice and hone the skills you learn in therapy.
A dietitian will evaluate your nutritional needs and help you understand the importance of healthy eating. Nutrition education focused on your specific needs also is available. Members of the Nutrition Service staff are available to 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. While all of them have extensive residency or fellowship training treating patients with a wide variety of rehabilitation needs, each has at least one special interest area. Your physician is selected based on his or her level of expertise with your injuries or illness as well as other medical conditions you may have. Some of our physicians who treat survivors of stroke include:
Daniel Fechtner, MD, specializes in treating patients with Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions. He joined Mary Free Bed in 2013, coming from the Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York.
Sam Ho, MD, is board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and has been the medical director of our Spinal Cord Injury Program since 1983. Dr. Ho is an adjunct clinical professor with Michigan State University’s medical school and 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.
W. Christian VandenBerg, MD, specializes in treating patients with neurological impairments, including stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury and multiple sclerosis. He is medical director of oncology rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed and a clinical assistant professor for Michigan State University.
With the goal of improving your communication skills, speech therapy may include cognition, memory, language and speech proficiency, problem solving, voice and fluency. Your speech therapist also will evaluate any difficulties you might have with swallowing and adjust your diet as needed.
Your care manager is the liaison between your family and your treatment team and will assist you and your family with:
• Coping issues
• Identifying and understanding financial resources
• Coordinating family education visits
• Planning for your graduation from the inpatient Stroke Program