Paralyzed Woman Healed By Therapy Pool Program At Presbyterian Village North Aquatics And Rehabilitation Therapy Center

September 2014

After extensive back surgery, 64-year-old Mary Johnson woke up unable to move her leg, as it was paralyzed after surgery. As she lay there recovering from surgery, she felt a deep loss of independence, as she could hardly do anything for herself, let alone get up to use the bathroom. She remained paralyzed for several months. Stricken with depression, Johnson began searching for programs that could potentially help her regain feeling and rebuild her muscle so she could walk again. When she discovered Presbyterian Village North (PVN) Aquatics and Rehabilitation Therapy Center, she knew she had found a place that could give her hope. PVN is one of the few communities in north Texas that offers this state-of-art equipment and specialized programming. After a mere month of therapy with PVN’s therapy team, Johnson is experiencing miraculous results. She is able to walk using an assistive walker. Her goal is to eventually walk using just a cane, which will be a huge success for a woman who couldn’t walk at all a month ago.

“When I first came to PVN, we started with leg exercises on land and then progressed to doing therapy in the pool,” said Johnson. “Exercising in the water feels amazing on my joints, removes the fear of hurting myself from falling and allows me to do a more strenuous workout. It took a couple of weeks for me to see the results, but I am in a much better place now. I am moving around with a walker on land. In the water, I can walk for 20 minutes on the treadmill, and I can climb stairs! For encouragement, PVN has placed a TV monitor above the pool and it shows you what your body is doing under the water. It is astonishing to me when I look up and see what used to be my withered leg, actively moving.”

Johnson does additional exercises at home and altogether spends at least two hours a day working on her physical therapy. She says she is always doing something with her legs to engage movement, whether she’s tapping her feet, doing leg lifts and leg extensions, putting an exercise ball between her legs and using her muscles to squeeze the ball as hard as she can or working with strengthening bands. She has increased energy, can get up on her own and her attitude is more positive.

“Each therapy plan is tailor-made for the patient,” said Keith McCrate, community director of rehabilitation for Presbyterian Village North. “We look at several factors when creating a plan–the patient’s goals, the time frame, the type of injury and more. We take a holistic approach and work toward helping our residents regain their independence so they can return to their lives without the fear of falling and with the skills they need to live as independently as they can. We are experts in the kind of exercises that will help them rebuild muscles and recover. Starting therapy as soon as possible shortens the recovery time.”

Pool therapy allows for all patients to move more easily, is less stressful on the joints, and the warmth of water and its buoyancy allow patients to do more. Therapists can work on balance with residents without the risk of falling, which is beneficial, as the fear of falling limits their progress on land. In the water, the PVN therapy team shows them they can walk again in a safe environment, which helps increase confidence.

“The pool therapy is a wonderful way to erase some of your disabilities,” said Johnson. “I could see what my legs could do, which is a real good indicator of what you’re going to accomplish on land later in the recovery process. My therapists Charlie and Jeff are phenomenal–patient, supportive and encouraging. I am delighted with my experience and the results of my recovery.”

Presbyterian Village North’s extensive rehabilitation center has private and shared suites in a home-like environment. The center includes an 1,800-square-foot fitness center with the state-of-the-art equipment and programs for physical, speech and occupational therapies. Their new Aquatics Center features the HydroWorx 3500 therapy pool with underwater treadmill, gait monitoring and massage jets.

“I have been conducting physical therapy for 12 years now, and I find it so fulfilling,” said McCrate. “PVN’s aquatic center features a HydroWorx pool, which is not common in the Dallas area. We take an individualized approach to care, with the patient’s goals first, which also differentiates our program. From the day we start discharge planning, we talk to the patient to see what they want to achieve and we work toward that goal every day.”