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Hillcrest Health Care Center Lifetree Therapy Team

Hillcrest Health Care Center, Lifetree Therapy help patient "never give up" on dreams of walking, hobbies again

Published on May 18, 2021

David Vance’s favorite hobbies are like that of most West Virginians, fishing, bowling, and riding ATVs to the top of the mountain to watch a sunset. These are hobbies Vance has not been able to enjoy since March 6, 2016, when Vance and his wife were hit head-on by a drunk driver traveling the interstate between Hurricane and Milton.

The accident left his wife with only a broken leg; however, Vance’s injuries were far more serious. The 31-year-old was paralyzed and told by doctors he would never walk or participate in any of his favorite hobbies again. 

“I’m just glad I found Hillcrest Health Care Center,” Vance said. “I’m thankful every day for everything the employees and therapy team have done for me here.”

After four years and several failed attempts at rehabilitation, Vance was admitted to Hillcrest Health Care Center (HCC) for wound treatment on December 2, 2020. Upon admission, the Lifetree Therapy team, the in-house therapy provider, noticed something when assessing Vance’s condition. He had sensation and muscle contraction in his legs. This was not consistent with his prior injury history and medical diagnosis. 

At home prior to coming to Hillcrest HCC, Vance used slide boards to transfer himself from one surface to another. Slide boards, also known as transfer boards, can reduce the strain on caregivers and patients to avoid much of the lifting otherwise involved in transfers. He also used a powerchair at home to get around the house. 

In three short months, Vance has made incredible advances his health care providers once said would be impossible for him. 

“It is refreshing and inspiring working with someone with the drive and motivation David has to get better and improve his situation,” said Sammy Sebok, Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) for Lifetree Therapy.  

He can now transfer from lying in bed to moving to the edge of bed independently and use the sliding board to transfer from his bed to wheelchair with some setup assistance. More incredibly, he has an active range of motion throughout his lower body with improved feeling and sensation as well.

This progress has translated into improved ability for weight bearing activities. He only requires setup assistance before using the sliding board. Vance can now stand, transfer, and participate in gait training, which is the act of learning how to walk after sustaining an injury. He can now also perform on an exercise bike for close to 15 minutes without assistance. 

The progress Vance has achieved is inspiring, and it is due in thanks to his willpower and to the therapeutic approach of the Lifetree Therapy team and the team members of Hillcrest HCC. 

“I just never gave up,” Vance said.

Vance is going through a rigorous treatment plan involving extensive upper and lower body strength training. One method of treatment helping Vance improve is neuromuscular reeducation with electrical stimulation, or e-stim. This treatment is used to improve function of the desired muscle group and help a patient become proficient in achieving a stronger contraction in those muscles without the e-stim’s assistance. 

This is followed by therapeutic exercises intended to strengthen isolated movements and muscle groups following increased muscle enabling provided from the e-stim. This approach is done with the goal of integrating these movements together into practical movement patterns. 

He was with therapy yesterday while I was a few doors down that hallway and he sounds like a professional athlete does when they are working out,” said Jeff Smith, Executive Director for Hillcrest HCC. “That is how much he is pushing himself now that he knows these guys and gals care and he is finally seeing progress here, when others didn't think it was a possibility.”

Vance is making progress daily, and the original wound he was admitted to the center for continues to heal. His inspiration for sharing his story is so others following their dream or following a difficult circumstance do not give up.