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VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System

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Home for the Holidays

Therapists use lift support to aid in Veteran's therapy.

Dr. Kaimee Devore works with U.S. Army Veteran Lisa Burchett using safe patient handling equipment for therapy.

By Sarah Phillips
Thursday, December 14, 2017

CLEVELAND – A U.S. Army Veteran from Northeast Ohio, is getting her wish to be home for the holidays with her husband after months of living in patient care at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, where she was bedridden and on a breathing ventilator.

Lisa Burchett, 63, from East Liverpool came to the VA for care in April after myotonic muscular dystrophy ravaged her body, attacking not only her muscles but her organs as well. The disease left her unable to move or breath on her own or get out of bed when she came to the VA.  Now thanks to a unique application of safe patient handling equipment, Burchett is scheduled to go home December 20, just in time for the holidays.  

“When I met Lisa eight months ago, and she was brought to our transitional care unit, she was not able to do a whole lot of anything,” said Occupational Therapist Erin Swift. “She was on a ventilator, she needed help with all of her self-care.  She wasn’t able to walk, sit up in bed or even eat.”

Swift, along with her professional colleague Geriatric Certified Specialist, Dr. Kaimee Devore worked for weeks, trying various therapies that involved manual patient handling. Not only were these manual lifting procedures risky for the staff, but the patient as well, and they weren’t working.  The diagnosis was at the point where the medical team was ready to discharge Burchett from therapy and she would spend the rest of her days in long term care as she was showing no improvements. 

The outlook for Burchett’s health changed after an in-service training event that Devore and Swift participated in where a new technique was introduced. They learned how to use a device typically only used for patient transfer, to conduct physical therapy. 

In a hospital setting when dealing with manual patient handling, injuries are a possibility. That’s where the Cleveland VA Comprehensive Safe Patient Handling and Mobility (SPHM) Program comes into place. 

“The Safe Patient Handling and Mobility program was started at the Cleveland VA to keep patients and employees safe, uninjured, and on the job taking care of our Veterans,” said the SPHM Facility Coordinator, Dr. Marie Martin.

There are devices that are regularly used in hospital environments to help transport and move patients that are not typical in a therapy environment. One of these devices is the ambulation harness that would normally only be used to transfer a patient.  

Changing tactics to implement the SPHM equipment with Burchett in therapy, “we began using an ambulation harness originally to allow for more sit to stand transfers but it evolved and within two weeks of use, she was able to do it on her own,” Devore said. “For the first time in five months Lisa was able to leave her room and socialize with others in the dining room.” 

However, the road to recovery remained unclear as Burchett as was still on a ventilator and wasn’t strong enough to breath on her own. The medical team organized and decided that due to her significant progress in therapy, they agreed to try weaning her off the vent.  Now, Burchett can breath on her own which will allow her to rejoin her family December 20. 

With extreme determination Burchett pushed herself and worked hard to regain her independence. As her doctors and care providers assessed her progress they came to a decision, “whereas before we didn’t have much hope for Lisa, as a medical team we now have the goal to get her home in time for the holidays so she can spend them with her family,” Devore said.

When asked about the care received at the VA, Burchett lovingly described her therapists as the torture twins because of how hard they pushed her. Today she says, “they are my angels. The staff, the nurses, the doctors, everyone is here for you.  You are not just a number, or a statistic.  You are somebody that they care about.” She added, “I never would have thought I could walk and do what I can do now without their help and expertise.”

A major contributor to the success of Burchett regaining her independence and mobility was the safe patient handling equipment. “They used the lift down here to see how I would respond.  It helped immensely because I no longer was losing my balance,” Burchett said. 

“I feel very fortunate to work here at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center,”  said Occupational Therapy Lead, Lorie Tomaszewski. “This establishment invests in the safety and wellbeing of both the Veterans and their staff.  We have all the newest safe patient handling equipment readily available to use and are always being asked what our needs are or will be.”

The Cleveland VA Medical Center team is extremely pleased to have a loved patient progress so far and be able to rejoin her family after so many months of separation, and just in time for the Holidays.

You can see more of Burchett's story at the News Channel 5 Link here



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