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Physical therapy with a personal touch

June 22, 2015

GBMC combines leading-edge technology with programs tailored to suit each patient's mobility needs

With the growing number of aging baby boomers facing mobility issues, it should come as no surprise that demand is increasing for rehabilitation medicine.

Around 15 percent of the world’s population — an estimated 1 billion people — live with disabilities. Nearly 7 percent of Americans report some degree of walking disabilities, according to Cornell University’s latest Disability Status Report.

Greater Baltimore Medical Center has responded with a large staff of highly qualified physical therapists, the latest leading-edge technology and equipment, and programs tailored to meet each patient’s needs. It’s all about restoring and enhancing the functional ability of patients with physical impairments, many related to rising rates of obesity and diabetes.

Patient receiving physical therapy at GBMC's rehabilitation unit
Patient receiving physical therapy at GBMC's rehabilitation unit
“Traditionally, physical therapy is linked more with helping injured or ill [patients] regain flexibility and strength, and occupational therapy is [linked] to recovery of activities of daily living,” said Virginia A. Moratz, OTR, CHT, CLT, administrator and clinical director of the Center for Rehabilitation Medicine at GBMC. “Both professions work toward patient quality of life. We work to empower the patient.”

Currently comprised of 17 providers plus support staff, GBMC’s Center for Rehabilitation Medicine is a state-of-the-art facility that provides a single source for comprehensive rehabilitation services including lymphedema diagnosis and management, oncology rehabilitation, vestibular therapy, pelvic floor and women’s health therapy, sports physical therapy and hand therapy.

Giving Back: An army of volunteers helps give GBMC a family feel Lymphedema is a persistent swelling, usually of the arms or legs, though it can occur anywhere in the body. It often results from damage to or removal of lymph nodes as a part of the treatment for cancer.

“There are patients who have suffered for years not knowing there was help,” Moratz said. “Our center is unique in that it has a comprehensive medical team, led by our medical director, Dr. Alan Kimmel, who is both a lymphologist and internal medicine physician.

Moratz, a certified lymphedema, occupational and hand therapist, recalled a patient who had been repeatedly hospitalized with leg infections, placed on oxygen, and was unable to walk or work. Following a lymphedema diagnosis and daily outpatient therapy at the Center for Rehabilitation Medicine, his swelling was controlled, allowing him to walk again, forgo oxygen and return to work.

Becky Stover, MS, RN, a nurse clinical system project manager at GBMC and an active athlete, was referred to the Center for Rehabilitation Medicine after suffering a debilitating broomball injury in 2013.

“My pain intensified to the point of being unable to play broomball,” Stover recalled. “I began having difficulties with small tasks, such as walking up stairs or getting out of the car. I could barely lift a gallon of milk without having back pain.”

Stover assumed she had a back injury, but her GBMC physical therapist, Emily Wood, diagnosed her with a rotated pelvis. Wood assisted Stover through stretches, weightlifting and balancing activities that gradually rebuilt her strength and realigned her pelvis.

“My therapist set specific, realistic goals that aligned with my personal expectations,” Stover said. “Slowly, the pain lessened and I could go up and down steps without having a death grip on the railing.”

Prior to her six weeks of treatment, Stover worried that she might never be able to resume playing sports. Six months later, having continued to build her strength at the gym, she has returned to broomball, and completed a 5K fundraising run last year.

“The Center for Rehabilitation Medicine really made me feel like I mattered. The therapist worked directly with me, not with three to four other patients at the same time,” Stover said. “The people [are] what made the difference for me: from the front desk staff, the interns helping with my warm-up exercises, to my actual therapist. They were the reasons that I came back.”

- Paul Rogers with Greater Baltimore Medical Center
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