A step in the right direction

Darrell Johnson is taking his time at Catawba Valley Medical Center's inpatient rehabilitation facility in literal strides.
Johnson, who had one leg amputated below the knee and one amputated above the knee, can walk more than 50 feet with the help of a walker after one week at the medical center's inpatient facility.
"It's been good, and the staff has been very helpful," Johnson, 42, said of his time at the inpatient facility. "I'm learning how to go about everyday life."
The center, located inside Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory, has space for 10 inpatients to undergo intensive three-hour daily rehabilitation. These services range from physical rehabilitation to occupational and speech therapies, as well as family member support and education.
"That's the whole focus of what we do - trying to restore patients' function," said Mimi Stachowski, inpatient rehabilitation director.
Patients at the rehab center range in disabilities and illnesses, but majority of patients come to recover and relearn functions lost after a stroke.
The center's staff of about 30 people assists patients with daily activities, such as toileting and dressing, as well as household tasks, like grocery shopping.
The center offers community outings, including visits to grocery stores and restaurants, for patients to reacquaint themselves with life outside of a hospital setting.
Patients also learn techniques to increase mobility and balance, which are functions often lost after a long hospital stay or an extended illness.
"It's keeping my muscles active, and it's not keeping me thinking about my downfalls," Johnson said of his rehabilitation.
Rehab center staff members establish goals and treatment plans for patients to determine the duration of each patient's stay in the rehab facility.
"Our staff members are very motivated and compassionate," Stachowski said. "They're wonderful with the patients."
Patients stay on average about 10 days, and about 86 percent of patients are discharged home following their stay in rehab.
Family members are also an integral part in patients' transitions from the rehab center back to their homes.
"If they're getting toward discharge ... we'll let them go home for a time on the weekend, so they can try out the home situation," said Ava Jarrett, rehabilitation services administrator.
Staff members also make home visits to ensure the patient's new environment is free from potential hazards and complications, such as doorways too narrow for wheelchair navigation and bed accessibility.
The rehab center is holding a patient reunion Sept. 22 at 5 p.m. at CVMC for its rehabilitation patients and their families.
"This event provides a great opportunity to recognize both local health care professionals and former patients who overcame challenging disabilities through rehabilitation," said Tony Rose, CVMC chief executive officer and president.
About 23 former patients are signed up for the event.
"It's a real treat to see someone come back and say, 'Hello,' to staff," Stachowski said. "When it all comes down to the end, (patients) do the work. We're just giving them the tools they need."