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Home Health Care Team’s Collaborative Approach Helps Young Patient Begin Healing After Traumatic Accident Leads to Functional Quadriplegia

Mary received the phone call that every parent fears. Her 23-year-old son Eddie had been in a traumatic, life-threatening accident.

While details remain unknown, it resulted in Eddie suffering a brain injury and stroke. Pandemic restrictions left Mary unable to see her son for the first three months of his four-month hospitalization. Eddie was unable to speak during much of his hospital stay because he needed to be intubated, or have a breathing tube to move air in and out of his lungs.

Eddie spent an additional four months at a long-term care facility. When he was finally able to transition home with the support of VNA Care’s home health care team, he was bedbound with a diagnosis of functional quadriplegia. Mary remembered the most he could do with his legs was wiggle his knees. He couldn’t tolerate having the head of his bed elevated and hadn’t even sat up during his eight months in facilities. Eddie couldn’t move his left arm and his right arm was weak. He could barely use a telephone never mind do other things most people take for granted. His condition was further complicated by painful wounds that wouldn’t heal.

VNA Care’s home health care team was determined to find a way to improve Eddie’s strength and mobility. The agency uses an interdisciplinary team approach to patient care, with nursing, rehabilitation therapies, and other clinicians and specialists on staff who serve as resources not only for patients, but also for each other as they treat complex diagnoses and injuries.

Sharon Matulis, OTR/L, occupational therapist, said team members not only worked on “their piece of the puzzle” but also consulted each other on what approaches were effective and how to “work together on the treatment plan to find ways to wake up his body again neurologically.” Team members often overlapped their visits to assist each other and make each visit as effective as possible.

Among the collaborative efforts were Sharon and Margo Kiss, RN, treating Eddie’s bedsore that was the size of a grapefruit. Healing had stalled and pain from it made sitting unbearable for Eddie. Sharon has a wealth of experience in treating wounds using special modalities, such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation, and these were incorporated into the plan of care. They were able to restart the healing process and shrink the wound to the size of a large grape. The improvement meant Eddie was finally able to tolerate sitting again.

Sharon and Margo were joined on the team by Jeremy Gately, PTA, Lauren McKay, PT, and Christopher Varney, OT, with specialists in such disciplines as speech therapy providing additional support as Eddie’s needs changed.

Mary said that every team member would “go above and beyond.” She was always able to reach them between visits. The occupational and physical therapists provided guidance on the best wheelchair for Eddie and other equipment to support his independence.

Through the state’s brain injury program, the family was able to have modifications made to their home to improve accessibility. Sharon provided input to the contractors to make the modifications a success.

Over the course of nearly one year, Eddie “made a lot of gains,” said Mary. The team served as cheerleaders for the entire family, and Eddie shared that it felt great to finally make progress.

“I’m a nurse myself for 39 years. This team was exemplary. They were unbelievable. You couldn’t ask for anyone better,” said Mary.

By the time VNA Care’s home health care team transitioned Eddie to outpatient care, they had helped him regain motion in both his arms and hands. He not only can sit up in bed, but he can also sit in his wheelchair and drive it himself. Eddie is no longer bedbound, and can leave the house in his family’s wheelchair accessible van.

Most importantly, Eddie is hopeful for the future and planning to enroll in college classes this winter — something that would have been impossible just months before.

“There’s just so many facets and so many ways they worked together to help us. It was a challenge. There was a lot Eddie needed. If I didn’t have VNA Care, I don’t think he’d be doing as well as he is right now,” said Mary. “Just to know them and have them help my son was absolutely wonderful.”

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