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Gary, W.Va. – The sun was shining on the warm June afternoon as team members at McDowell Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (N&RC) waited outside the main entrance for the doors to open. Some employees held signs and balloons, while others eagerly waited to clap and celebrate this special occasion.

The doors opened slowly to cheering, clapping and celebratory congratulations.

Finally, Timmie Lusk was going home after more than a year of rehabilitation.

Road to McDowell Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

For Lusk, 51, it had been three years since he could sit-up in bed on his own. He had to have surgery after an infection spread and caused damage to his spinal cord, which resulted in an incomplete spinal cord injury. Part of the spinal cord is removed, and rods and pins are used to prevent further injury.  

Lusk’s wife tried caring for him at their Oceana home, however it became clear after some time that he needed additional resources. He was having difficulty breathing and sitting upright. After some time at home after being discharged from the hospital, Lusk and his wife Kelli sought help. There was additional motivation to get better as the couple were in the process of adopting their daughter, Marley.  

So, Kelli called a friend who was in the therapy department at McDowell N&RC to find out what the couple could do and if the skilled nursing and rehabilitation center could help. On April 20th 2016, Lusk was admitted to McDowell N&RC.

Rehabilitation to home

“Our initial goal for his therapy was help him regain his upper body strength so he could sit-up in his wheelchair and bed,” Amanda Dunford, Physical Therapy Assistant for Lifetree Therapy Company (LTC) at McDowell N&RC, said. “He wanted to have a higher quality of life and to be able to hold his adopted daughter, Marely.” 

By the time Lusk was admitted to the center, he had not sat upright on his own since 2013.

“He also had some other health problems that required some attention,” Dunford added. “But we knew what he was capable of and that he could one day be standing again…so we kind of threw him to the wolves with an aggressive therapy program.”

Because of the type of injury, Lusk had decreased sensation and muscle tone in his legs and lower body. 

Lusk participated in a wide variety of evidence-based practices to increase his quality of life at home with his wife and young daughter. He needed physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) for neuromuscular re-education for standing, transferring and activities of daily living (ADL) such as standing, picking up items from the floor, performing overhead tasks, transferring to and from the bed and more.

“He met and exceeded his set goals and increased his strength. He regained his ability to transfer himself using a stand transfer disk, which is a device patients stand on and turn to help them sit in a chair or on a bed,” Dunford said.

The LTC team used manual techniques to build strength and used a Russian stimulation device, or neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) to activate muscle firing required for standing and a return to moving more freely.  

“I didn’t know much about this place, or that they even had this type of therapy,” Lusk said. “Those days with the rehabilitation teams, they showed me no mercy but it was all for the good.”  

Kelli knew the road to recovery would be a long one. The team at McDowell “have really helped him with fending off depression,” she said. “And most days, it’s just because they treat him like a real person, a man, not a disabled person.”

“People are eager to run and tell every bad thing that happens and are so full of complaints,” Lusk said. “I know I had a few, but there are so many people here that went above and beyond to help Timmie and our family in the year he has been here.”

This year, Timmie was able to go home for Thanksgiving dinner and sit at the table with his family. For the first time, at Christmas, Marley could sit on his lap to open presents.

Now, he can stand up for short periods of time, and sit-up to hold his 2-year old daughter. 

“The therapy department encouraged Timmie, and when needed, gave him a dose of tough love to keep his eye on the prize,” she said.    

Timmie hopes to get back to some of his hobbies, such as fishing, regularly attending church and spending time with his family after being away for a year.

McDowell N&RC provides skilled nursing, rehabilitation and more traditional long-term care.

“The needs of our community tend to lean more towards patients who need longer care options,” said Patty Lucas, Executive Director for McDowell N&RC. “However, last year, about a third of our patients who came to McDowell for skilled rehabilitation were able to go home after receiving care.”

Lucas noted that many people still believe that “nursing homes” such as McDowell N&RC is still only for those who are very sick or needing end-of-life care.

“We see all kinds of people come here for care,” Lucas said. “And the best part is we get to love and treat them all here in our home.”  

About AMFM:

AMFM operates 17 skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers throughout West Virginia. They operate in Braxton, Boone, Clay, Cabell, Summers, Fayette, Hardy, Greenbrier, Webster, Wayne, McDowell, Lincoln, Wyoming, Harrison (Clarksburg & Bridgeport), Marshall, and Mercer counties. 

AMFM’s mission is “to exemplify excellence in quality care to our customers by providing an environment that enhances personal growth, individuality, dignity and respect.”