December 18, 1995
Web posted at: 12:30 a.m. EST
From Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Eileen Murphy suffered spinal cord damage in a car accident a year ago. As a result, everyday activities became a chore.
"I had a lot of times when I just wanted to give up," she says.
To ease the transition to real life for Murphy -- and other patients suffering debilitating injuries -- many rehab providers are equipping their facilities with activities in daily living. Now rehab centers look like mini-towns where patients practice grocery shopping, crossing a street, getting into a car, even operating an ATM -- under the guidance of therapists and without ever leaving the clinic.
"We also do work on her body mechanics and her balance so if she has to go low to pick something up she can," says occupational therapist Linda Smolen.
While the in-patient and out-patient facilities represent a relatively new concept in rehab therapy, they are proving helpful in preparing patients for the real world.
"We can actually take them into real environments similar to those they have at home and work with them so that they can become better and become more independent," says Jeanne Morgante of the Main Street Physical Rehabilitation Center.
Eileen Murphy says that it works. "I can walk down the street where it's unsteady over here and go into the grocery store and actually deal with he different weights and have somebody there, not be embarrassed, not be worried about is somebody looking at me. What if I drop something?" she says. (136K AIFF sound or 136K WAV sound)
Confronting disabilities in a comfortable setting is good for patients. The colorful "Rehab 1-2-3" at Connecticut's Danbury Hospital is the first of its kind for children with disabilities.
Children think therapy is playtime. It also shows the importance of family involvement in rehab care.
"I am learning new things constantly as to how she should be moving versus how she shouldn't do it, because she could actually hurt herself," says mother Kim Shook. (94K AIFF sound or 94K WAV sound)
Historically, therapy has been limited to a setting that looked like a gym. But with proper medical supervision, these homey centers with their real-life challenges are helping some patients accomplish in months what they never accomplished in years.
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