HUNT VALLEY, Md., Nov. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- You've probably read about or
seen her in the news. "The awakening of Sarah," "Awake after 20 years, Sarah
speaks," "Accident victim speaks after 20 years," the headlines go on and on.
Sarah Scantlin, 39, was hit by a drunk driver 21 years ago and has been in a
minimally responsive state until earlier this year. After having a lobotomy on
the left side of her brain, the part thought to control speech, many members
of the medical community said Scantlin would never talk again; she defied the
odds and began speaking in February of 2005. Now, Scantlin's long-term goal is
to walk again. While there is hope for the future, many are saying achieving
that objective will be another miracle.
What does it take to walk after 20 years of inactivity? RehabWorks, one of
the nation's leading contract therapy providers, is offering a snapshot into
Scantlin's treatment program, showcasing the therapy that will hopefully
accomplish that goal. It is important to note that a rehabilitation program
should be customized for each patient, as there is no standardized plan or
"cookie-cutter approach" to treatment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least
5.3 million Americans currently have a long-term or lifelong need for help to
perform daily living activities as a result of a traumatic brain injury.
Because these cases are rare and considered miracles, there are no statistics
as to how many people return from a vegetative or minimally responsive state
and walk and/or talk again.
"After 20 years of inactivity, contrary to what Hollywood would like you
to believe, you just don't wake up and jump out of bed," stated R. Scott
Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer for Symphony Health Services. Its
company, RehabWorks, employs therapists that provide residents with physical,
occupational and speech therapy at Golden Plains Health Care Center in
Hutchinson, Kansas, where Scantlin resides.
A look back
For the past 20 years, while Scantlin was in a minimally responsive state,
her restorative treatment program consisted of range of motion to her upper
and lower extremities to prevent contractures. Positioning activities included
placing her in a Geri chair in upright body alignment to prevent postural
trunk contractures (tightening of body parts such as muscles or tendons).
Splints were applied to both of Scantlin's hands to place them in anatomically
correct positions. The staff frequently re-positioned her while she was in
Now, since she is responsive, Scantlin is on the long road to recovery,
which will take strong will, determination and dedication by both Scantlin and
the interdisciplinary team (IDT).
Before one can learn to walk again, other milestones must be achieved,
such as holding up one's head or sitting independently on various surfaces.
Individually, the therapists have provided numerous hours of treatment to
Scantlin each week.
One of RehabWorks' physical therapists has worked with Scantlin several
times a week, focusing mainly on her sitting balance on the mat table to
improve her ability to interact with the environment and achieve longer
periods of upright posture to participate with functional activities. Therapy
tasks have included stretching and strengthening exercises on her atrophied
limbs. Through these types of activities, Scantlin has increased her upright
postural control, and is now able to sit in her wheelchair up to six hours a
Scantlin also receives occupational therapy. With RehabWorks' Occupational
Therapist Kal Singh, Scantlin performs therapeutic techniques such as joint
mobility, range of motion activities, and positioning and splinting to upper
"In addition, Sarah uses a standing frame, a device that supports her and
allows her to bear weight on her lower extremities in order to assist in
decreasing/normalizing muscle tone. While standing, she is able to stack
objects with her left hand to improve upper extremity function to increase
independence with daily living tasks, such as feeding and grooming," stated
Robin Kenyon, Director of Facility Operations and PTA with RehabWorks.
Learning to talk and eat again
As part of her overall treatment program, Scantlin also participates in
speech and dysphagia therapy. She works with the Speech Language Pathologist
on oral motor activities to improve control and coordination of the oral
structures and muscles of her mouth, face and throat. Because of improved
throat strength and sensitivity, she is now able to consume a pureed diet with
"The long-term goal is to get Sarah on the safest, least restrictive diet
similar to what she used to eat before the accident," said Sandra Kemper,
Speech Language Pathologist. "Continued oral-pharyngeal improvement and
compensatory strategy development and instruction are needed to achieve this
Scantlin's speech program also includes oral/motor exercise and
coordination training using bite blocks and chewy tubes, expressive and
receptive language tasks and cognitive skills development. As part of overall
socialization and communication effectiveness, speech therapy is also
facilitating Scantlin's immediate and short-term memory skills and simple
problem solving for safety concerns.
Some of the speech treatment tasks are aimed at improving Scantlin's
ability to safely consume food the way most other people eat, while others are
aimed at improving her ability to communicate her needs and wants, feelings
and desires in a manner that is logical and easily understood by her family
and primary caregivers.
"The road to recovery is long and going to take an extended period of
time," stated Jones.
In addition, coordinated IDT efforts are critical in providing an
effective treatment program. Team members are committed to helping Scantlin
achieve her goals.
RehabWorks, one of the nation's largest contract therapy providers in the
long-term care industry, has more than 27 years of experience in establishing
successful rehabilitation programs. Providing services in more than 43 states,
RehabWorks offers physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech language
pathology services to the entire healthcare continuum from Pediatrics to
The company can be found on the Internet at http://www.rehabworks.com .
About Symphony Health Services:
RehabWorks' parent company is Symphony Health Services, which offers one
of the most comprehensive arrays of ancillary services available to the
healthcare continuum. These services include contract physical, occupational
and speech therapy, home care, respiratory and pharmaceutical supplies,
medical equipment, contract nursing, and operational and financial
consultation. With more than 5,000 full and part-time employees, the Symphony
Health Services' family of companies includes RehabWorks, VTA Management
Services, NurseWorks and Polaris Group, providing services to over 2,100
customers in 46 states.