All posts by Angelo Antoline

Act FAST and Save a Life

FAST is an easy way to identify the most common symptoms of stroke:

F – Face drooping. Ask the person to smile. Note if one side of the face is drooping.
A – Arm weakness. Ask the person to raise both arms to the side. See if one drifts downward.
S – Speech difficulty. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Listen if the speech is slurred or strange.
T – Time to call 911. If you observe any of these signs, call for help immediately.

Take note of the time of the first symptom so you can tell medical personnel because this can affect treatment decisions. Rapid access to medical treatment can make a difference between full recovery and permanent disability.

Other symptoms of a stroke also may include sudden onset of:

  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding what someone is saying
  • Numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body
  • Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes
  • Severe headache with no known cause
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

Even if you’re unsure if someone is having a stroke, don’t delay in calling 911 to get the person medical help immediately.

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Don’t Have a Stroke

Dick Clark. Sharon Stone. Rick James.

When you think of these celebrities, you probably think of their talents. What you probably don’t realize is that each suffered a stroke.

Strokes – or brain attacks – can happen to anyone at any time. Strokes are the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, and the fifth leading cause of death.

According to the National Stroke Association, about 800,000 people suffer from strokes every year. What’s notable, however, is that nearly 80 percent of strokes can be avoided.

Certain traits, conditions and habits can raise an individual’s risk of having a stroke. Many of these lifestyle risk factors can be controlled and may actually help prevent a stroke from occurring.

That’s good news, right? So, how do we lessen our chances of having a stroke?

We can start by controlling these lifestyle risk factors:
• High blood pressure
• Smoking
• Diabetes
• Poor diet
• High blood cholesterol
• Physical inactivity
• Obesity
• Heart diseases
• Alcohol consumption

If you think you can improve any of these lifestyle risk factors, do it.
The changes you make now may affect what happens – or better yet, what doesn’t happen – later.

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South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital Provides Nationally Recognized Care to Community for 10 years

For the 10th year, South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital has been acknowledged for providing nationally recognized rehabilitative care to its patients. The hospital was ranked in the Top 10% of inpatient rehabilitation facilities nationwide for providing patient centered care that is effective and efficient.

“This means that in the Brownsville area, we’re providing the highest level of rehabilitative care available anywhere in the United States right now,” says Leo Garza, CEO of South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital. “Patients and their families don’t have to leave the area to receive the latest in technology and clinical protocols – we’re providing it here in our own backyard.”

The hospital was ranked from among 781 inpatient rehabilitation facilities nationwide by the Uniform Data System for Medical Rehabilitation (UDSMR). The UDSMR is a non-profit corporation that was developed with support from the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. UDSMR maintains the world’s largest database for medical rehabilitation outcomes.

“This national ranking speaks highly of the commitment and dedication of our employees and medical staff,” Garza says. “Our staff is passionate about helping patients return home at their highest possible levels of productivity and independence. And for anyone who has ever had a family member or friend needing healthcare, that matters. We consider it a privilege to be able to provide this higher standard of care to our community.”

South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital provides specialized rehabilitative services to patients who are recovering from disabilities caused by injuries, illnesses, or chronic medical conditions. This includes strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and amputations, along with illnesses such as cerebral palsy, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

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Hospital celebrates decade in Brownsville

South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital celebrated its 10th anniversary in Brownsville with a big outdoor party on May 14, an event that also recognized the significant accomplishments of retired neurosurgeon Dr. Jose Kuri, STRH’s assistant medical director.

Kuri also celebrated his 90th birthday during the event, which drew a full house, including many local physicians, to pay tribute.

“We had invited about 250 people,” said Letty Mann, STRH director of marketing and business development. “A little over 300 showed up.”

A main conference room at STRH was also named for Kuri, she said. Although he’s retired from neurosurgery, Kuri still helps out with patients on weekends at STRH, Mann said.

“He’s very passionate about patient care and rehabilitation,” she said.

Kuri , a native of San Miguel , El Salvador , became board certified in neurological surgery in the United States in 1956 before returning to his home country. He was El Salvador ’s first neurosurgeon, serving as the dean of the medical faculty and professor of neurological sciences at the University of El Salvador .

From 1967 to 1975, Kuri served as director of that country’s social security institute and was instrumental in establishing a social security system in Central America and Panama , and expanding medical services outside El Salvador ’s capital city, San Salvador .

He arrived in Brownsville in 1975, launching a private practice in 1976 and performing neurosurgery at Brownsville Medical Center (now Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville) and Valley Regional Medical Center .

Kuri , who also taught at the University of Tamaulipas in Matamoros , served as medical director of rehabilitation services for VRMC from 1990 to 2005, and since 2005 has served as STRH assistant medical director.

Leo Garza, CEO of STRH, spoke during the event, as did Jessie Smedley , national head of marketing and business development for Ernest Health Inc., which owns STRH.

Dr. Christopher Wilson, medical director of STRH, and Dr. Jumar Apolinario, outpatient medical director, also were on hand for the festivities, as was Darby Brockette , one of the founders of STRH and now CEO of Ernest Health.

Among the honorees were 26 STRH employees who have served with the institution since its earliest days, Mann said.

STRH, at 425 E. Alton Gloor Blvd. , is a 40-bed, freestanding, acute-care rehabilitation hospital offering therapy for patients suffering functional deficits due to conditions such as amputation, brain injury, joint replacement, major trauma, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, stroke and work-related injuries.

Its rehabilitative services include aquatic, cognitive, occupational, physical and speech therapy, case management and social services, community re-entry, and rehabilitation nursing.

“We’ve also got dialysis beds, so we can serve those patients as well,” Mann said.

STRH’s aquatic therapy pool, contained within a 6,000-square-foot gym, is a game changer for many clients, she noted.

“That aquatic therapy gym has done wonders for so many patients,” Mann said. “It makes a big difference.”

She characterized STRH’s 10th anniversary celebration as a major milestone.

“It was a big deal for all of us,” Mann said.

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BEATING THE ODDS: After severe accident, victim fights to walk again

After surviving an accident in Mexico that claimed the lives of his two friends, doctors told 20-year-old Billy Jean Paul Hernandez that he would never walk again.

The accident happened Dec. 30 in Ciudad Valles, Mexico.

Upon hearing from doctors there that he could be paralyzed, his mother, Sandra Ruiz of Brownsville, decided it was best to return to the United States for Hernandez’s treatment.

Hernandez, who had been a student at Browns ville Early College High School, was living with his grandparents in Ciudad Valles, when the accident happened.

He described himself as once a “rebel,” but said after moving in with his grandparents and sustaining himself by

selling elote en vaso, or cups of corn, he eventually found God.

After an almost nine-hour drive in an ambulance, Ruiz and her son arrived at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville, where Hernandez received a number of surgeries.

Hernandez said he never lost sensation in his right leg after the accident, but lost hope when he heard he would never walk again.

“I thought I would have to depend on people for the rest of my life,” Hernandez said.

When Hernandez was going to be discharged from VBMC, the South Texas Rehabilitation Center evaluated him and placed him in its care.

Based on his injuries, he was a prime candidate for the center’s services, said Letty Kretz, director of Marketing and Business Development at STRH.

Eva Anger, an occupational therapist at STRH, where Hernandez quickly recovered from his injuries, said it’s very unlikely that someone with his kind of injuries could walk again.

Hernandez suffered three fractures in his spinal cord, one in the cervical spine, Anger said.

“It was pretty severe,” Anger said. “When you have that high of a level of spinal cord injury most of the patients don’t walk.”

Ruiz said her son was supposed to be at the rehabilitation center for a week, but on the last day of his stay, doctors noticed improvement and decided to let him stay for an extra week. 

It was then that therapy and stimulating his muscles with electricity worked, Anger said.

“The first day we saw him walk was amazing,” Anger said.

Although this is a rare occurrence, Anger said Hernandez was determined.

“His family was here around the clock,” Anger said. “He’s young and as tragic as it is, young people stand a really good chance because the body is not finished yet.”

Ruiz said she had a really hard time accepting the notion that her son wouldn’t walk again.

“It all happened too quickly,” Ruiz said.

Hernandez is now relieved that he can walk. He takes cautious, wobbly steps. He is now headed for another facility in Austin that will help him, thanks to the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Ruiz said.

The South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital has been ranked in the top 10 percent of inpatient rehabilitation facilities, Anger said.

“Inpatient rehab is the best chance our patients have of getting better,” Anger said.

After he is well, Hernandez said he plans to return to live with his grandparents and attend a technical school.

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Hospital helps patients recover after trauma

Luis Martinez, injured by a car accident that left him in a wheelchair, is now employed by South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital, which is celebrating National Rehabilitation Week, in Brownsville. Martinez is just one of many Brownsville residents who have benefited from rehabilitative therapy.

For anyone who has suffered a serious medical setback, completing everyday tasks can be a milestone—and can make a tremendous difference to quality of life.

The SouthTexasRehabilitationHospital in Brownsville is celebrating National Rehabilitation Week, which runs this week and aims to educate the public on the benefits of rehabilitation and the capabilities of people with disabilities.

The rehabilitation hospital opened in 2005 to serve locals with rehabilitation services, such as occupational, speech and physical therapy. A press release issued by Letty Kretz, director of marketing and business development, explained that rehabilitation is a medical specialty that helps people to recover after disabling diseases or injuries.

In 2009, Luis Martinez, a father of three, was involved in an accident when a tire blew out and spun his car out of control before it flipped over 10 times in Memphis, Tenn.

Martinez was paralyzed from the waist down and received a surgery a week after being hospitalized in Memphis to help mend his broken back. Martinez spent the next four months in physical therapy at the hospital, trying to regain as much mobility as possible. Soon after, Martinez was transferred to an out-patient facility to learn how to drive again using custom controls.

Martinez, who uses a wheelchair, has since moved back to Brownsville and works as a PBX operator at the SouthTexasRehabilitationHospital, where he handles incoming calls.

Martinez said he learned about the hospital two years ago at a Sprint store while shopping when he was approached by South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital CEO Jessie Smedley. Martinez impressed Smedley with his great attitude, and she immediately offered him employment at the hospital, Martinez said. Martinez began by performing maintenance duties around the hospital — painting, inventory and working with the nurse’s station — before working in the PBX department.

Martinez is currently a student at the University of Texas at Brownsville and is pursuing a degree in psychology so he can learn to communicate and understand the needs of patients at the hospital. The care and encouragement Martinez received on behalf of rehabilitation therapists have affected him and motivated him to serve others. 

Martinez hopes to obtain his degree and become a counselor at the hospital. Kretz said Martinez motivates other patients through his hard-working example. Martinez explained that paraplegics are especially susceptible to bed sores, which can very dangerous because poor circulation prevents the sores from healing quickly. Activity is vital to their health.

“People need to understand that there is life after incidents like this,” Martinez said. “It is possible through therapists who encourage patients to push themselves.”

Martinez contends that he owes much of his success to rehabilitation.

“We are lucky to have the South Texas Rehabilitation hospital here in Valley. It’s the kind of thing you don’t think about until you or a loved one need it,” Martinez said.

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