Therapy Village: Facility Helps Patients Ease Through Rehab
Bud Wallen's hips don't lie.
So when pain in his right hip began interfering with daily life, he knew the time had come to schedule hip replacement surgery. And just three days later, he began rehabilitation at Therapy Village at St. Joseph of the Pines.
"This facility is very accommodating," says Wallen, a 76-year-old Southern Pines resident. "You actually have all of the things here that you would have at home. It's a good reentry into the real world."
Reentry into the community is, in fact, the goal of Therapy Village, which opened in June. The space includes a mock supermarket, putting green, theater and apartment in which about 25 patients recovering from surgeries or ailments already have regained mobility.
Today Wallen begins his rehabilitation with a trip to the miniature supermarket, where he grabs a can of green beans and a plastic banana. He carefully maneuvers his walker and a plastic cart through the aisles, then approaches the cash register to "pay" for the items. Each step is cautious but fluid.
"They work me pretty hard, but it's to the patient's benefit, really," Wallen says, adding that Therapy Village is part of the more than an hour of therapy he does daily.
So far, Wallen's rehabilitation has included improving his upper body strength and moving frequently. It also has involved training his mind to remember to have the walker in front of him constantly.
"It's a lot of extra effort that you have to put forth when you have to use a walker every time you make a move," says Chris Fensley, an occupational therapy assistant.
The rehabilitation also requires Wallen to learn his limits and take breaks when he's tired -- something that therapists at St. Joseph of the Pines emphasize.
"They have to slow down," Fensley says. "They're used to rushing. After major surgery like they've had, it takes a couple weeks for the anesthesia to leave."
After successfully completing the grocery store obstacle, Wallen moves on to test his skills on the putting green. He misses his first putt, but he isn't fazed -- after all, he is a bit rusty.
"I haven't golfed for the past couple of years, because I've had problems with my hips," Wallen says. "It hurt to swing."
But with his new hip, Wallen hopes he can set foot on the fairway sans walker in a few months.
Following that quick round of golf, Wallen begins walking down the long hallway to the practice apartment. He demonstrates his ability to remove food from the refrigerator and place it on the table, making sure to hold on tightly to his walker the entire time.
"The main thing we're looking for is safety," Fensley says. "We don't want falls, because that's disastrous."
Safety is on Wallen's mind as he manipulates his body in and out of bed.
"Hands down," Fensley says as Wallen rises from his fake slumber. "Remember, on the bed."
Although Wallen seems to move easily, he says that lying down is one of the tougher parts of his rehabilitation.
"I should have had this done three years ago," Wallen says. "As a result of not having it done, the muscles in my right leg have tightened, and one of the most difficult things for me to do is lie flat. That's going to take some time."
Despite the silliness of pretending to nap and buying plastic fruit, Wallen is serious. He knows that with each plastic banana he pulls from the shelves and each putt he takes, he is one therapy session closer to heading home. The typical length of stay for hip replacement patients at St. Joseph of the Pines is one to two weeks.
He says the time spent using Therapy Village has been helpful, and he feels confident in his physical abilities. In fact, he says he feels "like a youngster."
Wallen knows what the coming weeks will bring to some extent, as he underwent replacement surgery on his left hip five years ago. This time, his rehabilitation at St. Joseph of the Pines will allow him to bypass the three weeks of in-home rehabilitation he underwent then.
And his willingness to do therapy will make the reentry process much easier, Fensley says.
"He's our star," she says. "He's cooperative and he's a delight. If you follow what the doctors and the therapists ask you to do, you have a great result. He's well on his way."
Kellen Moore, a student at UNC Chapel Hill, was a summer intern for The Pilot.
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