As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, one concern often heard regards the safety of a person’s loved ones, or possibly even themselves, if they need to be admitted to hospital. While some elective procedures can be postponed, there continues to be a steady need for inpatient rehabilitation.

Leslie Hyde, director of therapy operations at CHI St. Joseph Health Rehabilitation Hospital, an affiliate of Encompass Health, in Bryan, Texas, wants to assure the public that the hospital is a safe place to be and an important part of regaining health.

“We are well equipped with employees who are knowledgeable in infection prevention,” Hyde said. “They have received thorough training and reeducation on personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines, application and removal of PPE, proper hand washing hygiene and sterilization of equipment for use between patients.”

Additionally, modifications have been made to therapy sessions in order to ensure the safety of our patients, such as limiting the size of therapy groups to allow for proper social distancing and providing PPE to patients and staff because therapy for recovering COVID-19 patients is especially important.

Gabriel Menchaca’s battle with COVID-19

One recent patient, Gabriel Menchaca, came to CHI St. Joseph Health Rehabilitation Hospital after being diagnosed COVID-19 and unconscious for nearly four weeks before being admitted for rehabilitative care. Due to the recent training and reeducating completed by the staff, Hyde felt confident that not only Gabriel, but all patients would be kept safe.

His initial evaluation determined he had balance and strength deficits and poor endurance that required him to have assistance from his therapist to stand, walk, dress and bathe himself successfully. Due to his lung trauma, Gabriel required longer therapy sessions to allow for the more rest breaks. After only eight days, Gabriel was able to make great strides in his recovery and become completely independent again.

While treating recovering COVID-19 patients, Hyde reminds her employees to be sensitive to the fact that patients have had very limited to no socialization since being given their diagnosis. She said that therapy teams prepare an individualized care plan that they hope provides a positive experience as patients prepare for a return home and to the community.

The team at CHI St. Joseph’s was able to coordinate a virtual chat with Gabriel’s family at his hospital room window in order to maintain social distancing guidelines while also keeping him connected to his loved ones.

“By creating opportunities for the patient’s loved ones to have window meet-and-greets and virtual conversations, we use the same methods to complete family and caregiver training sessions to ensure the patient will be successful as they transition home,” Hyde said.  

Hyde, MOT, OTR, joined the CHI St. Joseph Health, an affiliate of Encompass Health team as the director of therapy operations (DTO) in August 2016. She brings more than ten years of rehabilitation experience to the organization. A Bryan, Texas native, she earned a bachelor’s degree in community health from Texas A&M University in College Station and a master’s degree in occupational therapy from Texas Woman’s University in Houston. Prior to her position as DTO, Leslie served as the manager of the occupational therapy department for all phases of the rehabilitation continuum.

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