Spaulding Rehab: Hope and Outrage

I’m happy to report I was discharged from Spaulding Rehabilitation Center on Tuesday, and am now recovering at home. Following are some thoughts I pulled together during my time at Spaulding:

After undergoing three surgeries at Mass. General Hospital, I was sent to my next ordeal: physical rehabilitation. In Massachusetts, patients are fortunate to have a number of excellent options of rehabilitation hospitals, including Spaulding, which is located right next to North Station in Boston. I was transferred to Spaulding almost two weeks ago.

Being in the Spinal Cord Injury Unit is an immediately sobering experience. About half of the patients here are permanently disabled, most of them young men who were either engaged in some reckless behavior or met their fate in a freak accident. While medical advances allow them to get around in hi-tech wheelchairs and the therapy they receive gives some of them a chance to someday be able to move their arms or more, their reality was incredibly depressing. It made me feel incredibly grateful my injuries are not permanent disabilities, and that I will recover from them within a few months.

To see the nurses, assistants, therapists, and other rehab team members work with the patients is incredibly inspiring. Their positive attitudes in working with patients who have such significant challenges is part of the reason, in my opinion, that patients do improve at Spaulding. The daily regimen is intense but fair, and it’s amazing to see how quickly the body can improve itself.

While the intensive therapy I received prevented me from really getting to know the other patients that well, the close living quarters and conversations with staff reveal very quickly that these dedicated men and women battle the U.S. health care system every day in trying to do the best for their patients.

One day I overheard a young, permanently disabled man outside my room inform a fellow patient that he was being discharged a week early from Spaulding. It wasn’t that his therapy team had decided he was ready to go to the next level – it was that his insurance company had determined that they would not pay for any further comprehensive therapy at Spaulding. He was headed home, and he really wasn’t sure what he would be able to do to improve his current physical limitations.

When I spoke with one of my nurses about this, she told me how things had changed in health care over the course of her twenty-three years at Spaulding. When she first started, a patient with such injuries could stay for 9 to 12 months. Today, insurance companies push for an early discharge, or simply include in their policies a cut-off date for paying for such services.

As an elected official, I hear stories like this often. But being there at the rehabilitation facility as a patient myself, and seeing these cruel policies implemented right before my eyes, really drove the point home. How is it that in the richest country in the world, this is how our health care system works? How exactly do the for-profit forces stop the rest of us from changing the system overnight, and ending this outrage?

There must be a way to provide for the full needs of every patient who is brought in on a wheelchair or gurney to this floor, and the thousands of other medical floors in this country where Americans are also suffering, and to improve their quality of life with enough attention and dedication from medical experts. I continue to believe that if we all came together on this national embarrassment, the changes that need to be made would sweep the country.

Yet clearly, as we have seen in the current debate on health care in Washington, D.C., change is an uphill battle. I do believe that the national health care reform that President Obama and the Democratic Congress are working on will improve the American health care system — yet I wonder if we, the people, will have the political will to make the changes in our system necessary to ensure that the patients at Spaulding can stay until they’re ready to go home.

8 thoughts on “Spaulding Rehab: Hope and Outrage

  • AMEN Jaimie someday I’ll swap horror stories of what I experienced and witnessed during my recovery. Glad your doing better,we miss you šŸ™‚

  • It is very difficult to receive the services you need. You always have to appeal these decisions. I always have to request a reasonable accomodation.

    As an advocate for the elderly, disabled and low income I have had to learn the hard way by struggling for the last 15 years with my own disability conditions. I am also a recovering alcoholic and addict who has been clean for 15 years and has had to go thru many rehabs even while sober to keep sober.

    The request takes a lawyers mind to receive the help you need.

    Here is the verbiage that the Insurance companies are looking for:

    “I request a reasonable accommodation or modification due to handicap and or disabilty. I request Alternate Rules, Regulations and proceedures for you to remove all barriers for me to provide me with the programs, services, treatments that I need to live independantly as possible.

    Always request a hearing and indicate you want a expedited hearing due to extreme nature of the injuries or permenant disabiling
    condition. The insurance company can’t legally shut off services while your are waiting the appeal. The insurance companies witll help expedite the hearing procedure with their intentions to push you out without providing services. Yet this usually works in the patients best interest when you have the doctors and nurses that supports your diagnosis.

    Please contact me for further information.

    There is specific wording that the doctors can put in for prior approval that has to connect the patients conditions with their permant disability issues.

    I hope this helps.
    Please do not hesitate to contact me.

  • Jamie,

    So glad that you are recovering, and pray, that you will be back on your feet soon and back at work.

    Your observations are on point, similar to my own experiences in health care. How do we get our politicians out into the REAL AMERICA so that they can see first hand what is happening on Main Street? It shouldn’t take a change in status for a politician to understand what Main Street is going through. Any thoughts?

  • I lost an uncle to complications from a paralyzing spinal cord injury.. we went through so many things you reference above… Thank you Senator Eldridge for voicing your observations! I hope you will remain an advocate for health care reform and for supporting these facilities!

  • Jamie,

    I hope that your are doing well, and have a speedy and full recovery. We need you in the Senate, working on the issues we all care about and that have such an impact on the lives of people in the Commonwealth.

    Thanks for posting this – it is so important to remember the real people behind the policies and programs we work on every day.

    Take care.

  • I admire your spunk and attitude, Jamie! Though it still must be very hard for you, it’s wonderful to hear of your progress. Keep up the good fight; you will get there some day!

  • Thank you for sharing your experiences and opinions with me. Erin, once I get back to work, would be great to catch up.

    Richard, I personally believe that the way politicians get back in touch with the general public is breaking away from a reliance on corporate donations. The Democratic Party has been weakened by its addiction to corporate money, and it has weakened its progressive agenda.

  • Jamie,

    I am glad that you are making progress. We look forward to your full recovery.

    I am also glad to hear your views and continued focus on the healthcare. The effects of our healthcare system are wide reaching. In working with the City Reach Homeless Program in Boston, I have found that many people end up homeless because of health issues and not having the insurance to cover them. In fact, one man who we met there is from Acton and a veteran. It is because of lack of health care that he lost his home and is on the street today. Let us all know what we can do to help with this issue which impacts all of us.

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