Good Samaritan Stroke Specialty Rehabilitation Program newly accredited in December
Just days before Mary Faulkner had a stroke last summer, she helped unload and spread 50 bags of mulch in her landscape. The mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, at age 75, was living a full and active life.
On July 13, she climbed out of bed after a rough bout of coughing that she thought was from bronchitis. She doesn’t remember much after collapsing on the floor in the hallway. Her husband called 911, and she was taken to Good Samaritan by ambulance, and later transferred to Deaconess in Evansville, where she spent two weeks after a hemorrhagic stroke. Such a stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures. Faulkner’s diagnosis was for a rupture on the left side of her brain.
On July 26, she came back to Good Samaritan for another month of inpatient rehab. Faulkner says now she can’t say enough good things about her care on the Stroke Specialty Unit.
The Good Samaritan Stroke Specialty Rehabilitation Program was newly accredited in December and the Center has become an even better resource for the community.
The new accreditation holds the Center to a higher standard, explained Amy Pfoff, MS, CCC-SLP, stroke coordinator of inpatient rehab. Twenty-four different standards must be met to achieve CARF’s (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) three-year accreditation.
“Our focus is a lot of patient family education, reducing stroke risk factors, restoring quality or improving quality of life and getting them (the patients) back to where they were before and prevent another stroke from happening,” said Pfoff.
“We are a resource for the community, having the knowledge base that we do. Some patients are just seeking information, reaching out to us. We take questions and they can have counsel with any of the therapists or myself. We have standing monthly stroke support and awareness clinics. Anybody off the street can come in and get their blood pressure, blood sugars, balance or grip strength tested. We can help identify some of the risk factors.”
“We love to have those patients come here. Really, we want to prevent those strokes from happening in the first place.”
Statistics show 80 percent of strokes are preventable, according to Good Samaritan reports. With Americans suffering 795,000 strokes each year, it’s the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.
Because of its new accreditation, the rehab unit has been able to increase the complexity of the patients that it accepts.
With the unit having been open since 2000, and the general surveys for accreditation every three years, Barb Toole, case manager and social worker in the unit, said the new CARF accreditation is “perfect timing for what we needed to provide the community.”
Pfoff said, “It gives you an avenue to brag about what you do. The intricate details in the standards; it pushes you to do above and beyond what other units are doing.”
Toole added, “Definitely, the interaction with the families and the patients and getting to take them from a really declining state and watching them be successful and getting them back to their homes and back to their routines. My favorite part is restoring what once was, and being a part of the team.”
A team that loves the unit
Pfoff started her career as a speech pathologist, and has worked in the field for 20 years.
“Stroke patients have always been my favorite population to work with as a therapist,” she said.
Therapy for stroke patients hit close to home for Pfoff when several years ago her own mother had a stroke.
“It made me see it in a different perspective. The timing was perfect. I have a passion for the stroke population, and being able to help those families in a different way than just as a therapist,” Pffof added.
Thankfully, her mother was able to make an almost full recovery, she said.
Sharon Curry, a registered nurse on the unit and shift coordinator, has worked in Stroke Specialty Care for four years.
“Most rewarding is seeing the patients’ progress, and seeing the families have that sense of relief. Just because they had a stroke doesn’t mean it’s the end, it’s just a challenge they have to work with,” Curry said.
She added, “It’s an acknowledgement (CARF) that the hard work we do is the right thing for the patient, and the accreditation validates that. It’s worth it.”
Dr. Stewart: ‘It’s very satisfying’
The medical director of the inpatient rehab unit, Dr. Alan Stewart, said the re-certification with no recommendations is a “real credit to the whole unit up here.”
Stewart, a general internist who’s been in private practice since 1973, has been medical director of the unit for the last 13 years.
He said, “We take patients with the idea that they are going to get better and go home.
“The best patients are the ones who don’t really want to be here. They are doing the work and we are just the advisors.
“It’s very satisfying. We have a lot of people who feel really good about what they have accomplished here, both physical and psychological. The psychological component almost seems as though it’s bigger. People are not used to being ill, and it is psychologically challenging for them. It’s hard to think positive about their health. We try to promote being positive.
“I’ve seen patients with severe strokes get better and return home,” Dr. Stewart said.
The unit also accepts traumatic brain injury patients, and has served young people who have been injured in vehicular accidents. It’s a minor function of the unit, but sometimes patients can’t get better and alternative plans have to be made.
“But we help families make those decisions and most of the time we like to get people home,” he said.
Faulkner recalls ‘wonderful’ care
Faulkner called Dr. Stewart’s care for her “wonderful,” and she still remembers how the doctor lectured her to eat better after she lost her appetite and had to resort to two weeks of feedings via a tube.
“I can’t say enough about the good care I got. They keep you busy, kind of rotating to different people,” she said.
Faulkner, a former Vigo school reading aide, is back to doing many of the things she did before her stroke. Besides the memory loss and not being able to drive due to occasional impairment from her left side, she’s back to living at home with her husband, Richard.
“I still wish I could drive to Walmart, but it just affects my left side. Word Jumbles, writing checks and writing recipes … I have had to train myself to go left to right. And, sometimes I miss things on the left side of the big screen TV,” she said.
And although Faulkner suffers some memory loss, she hasn’t forgotten the therapist who had her on the parallel bars one day encouraging her to take a step with her left leg. Non-functional until that time, Faulkner said she told the therapist it wasn’t possible. “I couldn’t even lift my (left) leg in bed,” she recalled.
But there were tears of joy from almost everyone’s eyes when Faulkner walked the length of the bars with both feet.
“I’d give Good Sam an A+ all the way around … everybody,” Faulkner said.
By Melody Brunson