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 bed. 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). Achieving milestones 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 day. 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 extremities. "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 nectar-thickened liquids. "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 goal." 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. About RehabWorks: 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 Geriatrics. 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.