Sarah Scantlin's Journey to Independence

RehabWorks provides sneak peek into rehab regimen for woman who 'woke up'

after 20 years

Nov 10, 2005, 00:00 ET from RehabWorks

    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).
     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
     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
 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
     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
     The company can be found on the Internet at .
     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.

SOURCE RehabWorks