October 15, 2021 by John Fernandez
Rehab Team Has Profound Impact on Patient’s Journey to Recovery
After spending two months at Baptist Health Rehabilitation at Homestead Hospital to regain functional mobility, Conrad Vazquez felt compelled to share his thoughts about the care he received from the center’s nurses, therapists, specialists and clinical partners.
Mr. Vazquez was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. At the peak of the condition’s progress, many patients experience pain and severe weakness of nearly all skeletal muscles, with talking, swallowing and breathing frequently being affected. This was the case with Mr. Vazquez.
When he arrived at Baptist Health Rehabilitation, he had the feeling of pins and needles and required assistance with all aspects of daily living, recalls Girline Simpson, R.N., a member of his clinical care team. He could not close his eyes and had trouble with his speech. He also had a great deal of anxiety, which is understandable with this condition, explains Ms. Simpson.
“The team took such good care of me,” Mr. Vazquez said. “The nurses would check in on me at night because they knew this was the most difficult time. They would sit with me, encourage me, prop up my pillow, share a story and reassure me that I was not alone.”
His therapy team, including occupational therapist Ileana Brana, physical therapists Haydeh Zabihi and Mariam Almasi, speech therapist Lisette Gonzalez and others worked with Mr. Vazquez to help him achieve optimal muscle use at a tolerable pain level as his nerve supply returned. Using supportive equipment and other functional adaptations, they helped Mr. Vazquez make progress with sitting, walking, dressing, speaking and eating.
“Sometimes I would question why I was doing something that seemed odd or so simple, but then I would see that this movement helped me in another area that was more complicated,” explained Mr. Vazquez. “If something wasn’t working, they would tailor the therapy to get the best result. They are so very knowledgeable.”
Both Ms. Simpson and Ms. Brana say that Mr. Vazquez’s great spirit, positive attitude, faith and determination along with the amazing support he received from his wife, Tania, and family played a big factor in his recovery.
“The nursing team worked hand in hand with the therapy team, respiratory team, physicians and other specialists,” said Tania Santiago-Mirabal. “They all had a personal stake in Conrad’s care. And the continuity of care helped him feel comfortable and make progress.”
Mr. Vazquez’s son, Brandon, was also moved by the compassionate care his father received. In a letter he wrote to the center’s nurses, therapists and clinical partners, he said, in part:
“I wanted to take the time to express my deepest gratitude for the way each and every one of you has treated my father throughout his stay… By now, he’s spent over 50-plus days with you all and has shown remarkable improvement in both his physical and mental state… These long hospital stays can be trying for both patients and family members alike; but you guys have made it a more bearable experience, and we will be forever grateful for your efforts. It takes a special kind of person to be able to do the work you all do every single day while being cheerful, loving and encouraging to those around you. As I head back to New York, I will particularly remember those of you who went the extra mile with my pops, who stayed in our room to chat with us and who always left us with a smile… Thank you, thank you, thank you for everything.”
Everyone celebrated the victory when it was time for Mr. Vazquez to go home and transition to outpatient therapy, says Ms. Simpson. However, they also found it difficult to say goodbye. “We became very vested. We became like family.”