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Healing, one step at a time

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The level of medical attention provided to an accident victim can determine what quality of life a patient can regain. A Flower Mound family discovered that geography can also play a major role in recovery.

On April 19, Javier Diaz, Sr., 69, blacked out momentarily and fell backward, hitting his head and neck. As his children tended to him over the next few days, the symptoms worsened to a point where Diaz was hunched over, unable to sit up and could only move two fingers on each hand.

After multiple tests, it was discovered he was suffering from central canal stenosis, a condition of abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal. The condition was so severe that it was putting pressure on his windpipe.

On April 27, he was admitted to Continuum Rehabilitation Hospital of North Texas in Flower Mound, one of the few places in the Metroplex which offers both advanced in-patient rehabilitation and skilled nursing care in the same facility.

“My father immediately liked this facility and the attention to his needs,” said Javier Diaz, Jr., the eldest son. “The people working here make the difference, and they’re really working hard for him.”

An initial in-depth consultation, which includes the patient’s family, by Continuum’s Medical Director Dr. Theresa Oswald and clinical liaisons Meg Menard and Melissa Allen grades a patient’s condition and level of function to determine what individualized level of skilled nursing care or full in-patient rehabilitation is required.

As part of his physical therapy regimen, Diaz uses the assisted gait trainer, a machine which can support a patient’s weight to a percentage determined by the physical therapists. He also works with a machine similar to an elliptical for cardiovascular and leg muscle work and one for his hands, which works just like a bicycle with the hands working the “pedals”.

“When Mr. Diaz first started, he was at zero percent; the machine supported his entire weight,” said physical therapist Stephanie Wheeler. “Two people were needed just to lift him out of bed. Today, he’s at 80-percent and has progressed to a point where he can use a walker to stand and take steps.”

The medical and therapy professionals closely monitor a patient’s progress with regular staff meetings and one-on-one attention.

“Nerves regenerate at a rate of one millimeter per month,” said Director of Rehabilitation Therapy Gina Tomaseski. “Mr. Diaz’s condition taxes the nervous system, so it takes time to heal, but he’s now doing things he wouldn’t attempt when he first got here.”

With the help of Tomaseski, Wheeler, occupational therapist Eric Mikulastik and physical therapist assistant Howard Hardwick, Diaz Sr. has plenty of people devoting their time and effort to regain his mobility and quality of life. 

“When patients can stay with the same therapists throughout the process, they develop confidence in making strides toward their recovery,” said Menard.

Although he continues to make outpatient rehabilitation visits daily, Diaz Sr. has returned home and is able to put clothes on, brush his teeth and walk short distances. In addition, he’s lost 50 pounds and– as a diabetic– his blood sugar has dramatically decreased, thanks to the work and consultation of Oswald, the therapists and the facility’s dietician.

“It’s the little things and attention to details that make this place different from other facilities,” said Diaz Jr.

Continuum Rehabilitation Hospital of North Texas is located at 3100 Peters Colony Rd. just west of the intersection of Cross Timbers Road and FM 2499.

 

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