The Road to Recovery
Inpatient Rehab Helps Patient Restore Optimal Functioning
Meet the team: (Front row) Lauren T. Shapiro, MD; Courtney May, PT; and Ali G. Ganjei, MD, Medical Director, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Inova Health System. (Back row) Christina Blimling, OT; Roger V. Gisolfi, MD, Medical Director, Inova Rehabilitation Center; and Stephanie A. Giorlando, DO.
Life can change at any moment. Andrew Benvenuto knows that firsthand.
At age 80, the retiree was enjoying an active life with his wife, Genevieve. The former computer analyst traveled, volunteered through the Catholic Church, and participated in activities and classes offered at Greenspring Retirement Community in Northern Virginia. He also followed doctor's orders to monitor a diagnosed abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
But on April 30, 2009, just two weeks shy of his next appointment, the aneurysm ruptured. Benvenuto was rushed to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he required seven hours of surgery to repair the artery. Doctors told him there was a 2 percent chance he would survive. The odds were even lower that he could lead a normal life.
While he recovered, the ruptured aneurysm left him partially paralyzed from the waist down. After a week of post-op care at Inova Fairfax Hospital, he was transferred to Inova Rehabilitation Center.
Andrew Benvenuto with his wife, Genevieve
"If I had gone anywhere else, I'm sure I wouldn't have been in as good of shape when I arrived home," says Benvenuto, who spent a month in acute inpatient rehabilitation. "Everyone was wonderful. The staff really knows what they are doing."
The goal of inpatient rehabilitation, which includes speech, occupational, physical and other therapy, is to help patients achieve their highest personal level of functioning (see sidebar below). As a result of physical and occupational therapy, Benvenuto learned to adapt to a power wheelchair, maneuver the chair to get around rooms and hallways, and function as independently as possible.
"Mr. Benvenuto's AAA impacted the blood flow to his spinal cord so he presented as having incomplete paraplegia," recalls Amanda Hennekes, physical therapist, who saw Benvenuto throughout his stay in her spinal cord injury group. "Our primary focus in physical therapy was to increase his independence with lifting and managing his legs — which were quite swollen after surgery — to enable him to move in bed and transfer safely to and from his wheelchair. We were able to get him to the point where his wife could assist him with mobility so he could return home."
Adds occupational therapist Val Nowak, "Our focus in OT was to educate him on how to complete his normal daily tasks — i.e., dressing, bathing, grooming — using predominantly his arms and trunk muscles."
His attitude helped him recover, the therapists note. "His outlook was very positive, he had a strong support system and he was motivated to regain as much function as possible," Hennekes says. "These factors helped him meet his rehab goals."
These days, his right leg is still immobile, but Benvenuto has regained some feeling in it. He participates in a chair fitness class offered by his retirement community three times a week to build strength in his upper body.
His appetite is returning and he is regaining some of the weight he lost — though he says his clothes are still much too big. "I am patient and I am grateful," he says. "People tell me, 'You look great, Andy.'"
He is also living a full life. Benvenuto is taking a class on the Old Testament and learning to speak Italian. Last May 27, he and Genevieve celebrated both his birthday and their 50th wedding anniversary. Talk about accomplishments.
Transition to Home
Inpatient Rehab Patients Relearn Life Skills
Inova Rehabilitation Center is an inpatient program that
offers an individualized rehabilitation plan for people with
skeletal and neuromuscular injuries, illnesses or conditions.
The goal of the program is to help patients achieve their
highest level of independent functioning and return to the
community. Patients learn how to strengthen and stretch
muscle groups; learn new methods of mobility, self-care,
communication and thinking; develop coping skills for a
positive psychological adjustment; and other skills.
The interdisciplinary team includes: physiatrists, case
managers, rehabilitation nurses, neuropsychologists or
psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists,
speech/language pathologists, respiratory therapists,
therapeutic recreation specialists, social workers,
orthotists, prosthetists, dietitians and a chaplain.
About Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)
- AAA is the most common type of aneurysm.
- Small aneurysms, or bulging of an arterial wall,
generally pose little threat. If detected, they are
monitored over time.
- Aneurysms can increase the risk of
weakening/dissecting of the artery wall or blood
clots that form at the site and dislodge.
- Aneurysms may be caused by atherosclerosis
(hardening of the arteries), hypertension, high
cholesterol, injury, aging or congenital abnormality.
- Aneurysms often present no symptoms. However,
possible symptoms can include tearing pain, loss of
consciousness, stroke, shock or heart attack.
- Rupture of an aneurysm is a catastrophic event
requiring emergency medical attention.