Guest Blog by Sue Bauerle, sister of Mary Free Bed alumnus Nancy Goodsell
That’s the first word that came to mind as I accompanied my sister (Nancy Goodsell) to the Mary Free Bed gym on the first morning of her therapy. Just a few weeks before, her health had begun deteriorating. She was confused, unable to get words out and unable to move much on her own.
Her condition even puzzled the doctors, but an MRI revealed an increase in the size of the ventricles in her brain; the fluid wasn’t draining properly and was putting pressure on her brain. After more testing, she was scheduled for a shunt placement. Four days later, she was transferred to Mary Free Bed, more lucid but still with many physical and cognitive deficits.
The weeks leading up to this had been a time of frustration, fear and concern over whether she would ever be herself again. Yet that first morning, as I watched therapists work with her and observed other patients in the gym, I felt excited. I heard therapists giving words of encouragement; I saw their smiles; and I saw the patients responding. There was a feeling of hope all over that gym.
As the days went on, my trust in and respect for the staff at Mary Free Bed continued to grow. My sister’s nurses and nurse techs gave compassionate and competent care on the floor. Dr. Bruinsma came by each morning to check on her. Transport staff came with a smile to take her to therapy when I wasn’t there. And her therapists were awesome!
Her main team (Lauren, Jason, Annie, Amy and Glenn) had a way of encouraging her to perform the tasks she could accomplish while challenging her to do things that were more difficult – and explaining how the difficult things were essential to her healing. They got to know her personally, joked with her and made therapy something she looked forward to each day. They encouraged family involvement and, as I was able to be there most of the time, they included me in activities.
Fifteen days of inpatient therapy helped my sister progress from being unable to walk at all on her own, perform daily tasks, verbalize her thoughts and remember something for more than a couple of minutes to walking all over the hospital, doing her own personal care, engaging in long conversations and remembering things for much longer periods of time. The therapists also taught her strategies for coping with the things that were still difficult for her to accomplish.
As for me, I got my sister back. And as we said goodbye to her therapy team that last day, I knew that they had become friends!
I realize that not everyone is able to walk out of the hospital after their rehab, but I’m sure everyone leaves in a better place than they were at arrival. That’s because Mary Free Bed is a place of hope.