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Venture Forthe Client Regains Independence

by Nichole Salva
Thu, Jul 16th 2015 04:25 pm
Jamestown Post Journal  [ View Original Article ]

Work Ethic Desire To Return To Work Helps Traumatic Brain Injury Victim Cope 

GREENHURST - In August 2014, Scott Donner, 56, was walking up the outdoor stairs to visit his neighbor when the stairs collapsed. As a result, he suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him unable to breath, eat or walk on his own. At the time, Scott was rushed to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, where his road to recovery began. In order to keep Scott alive, part of his skull was removed and stored in his stomach for months. The surgeons at ECMC removed the skull segment to assist in the reduction of swelling along side Scott's brain. Once the brain swelling decreased enough, the surgeons replaced the skull segment to its original position. By this time, Scott was a shadow of his former self. Although he was medically stable, his need for rehabilitation and long-term care was great. So, Scott was transferred to Heritage Green Rehab & Skilled Nursing facility in Greenhurst. When Scott arrived at Heritage Green, he had a feeding tube, a tracheostomy, periodic delirium, weakness throughout his extremities and was unable to walk or perform her personal care without extensive assistance. Following approximately two months of intensive sub-acute occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language services, Scott's efforts assisted him to achieve remarkable functional improvements. Consequently, he regained the ability to eat an altered diet by mouth and to walk independently. By this time, Scott required only periodic supervision to ensure he safely completed his personal care. While Scott's impaired judgment and safety awareness associated with his brain injury had improved, it had not improved to a level in which he could live alone. This left Scott's long-term plan in limbo. However, after about two months, Scott's cognition continued to gradually improve. He became eligible for and was accepted to a long-term waiver program, which would provide services to assist him to return to home. Once Scott learned of his possibility to return home, he immediately stated he also intended to return to work as well. Once Scott formulated a plan to return to home with the intentions of returning to work, Jenna Sadowski, occupational therapist at Heritage Green, took the initiative to resume OT interventions which focused solely on home management and return to work skills. Jenna researched and visited Scott's work and home environments in order to develop a care plan for him that would promote his move back into his community. Jenna also referred Scott to her colleague Melanie Cannon, speech/language pathologist. Together, Jenna and Melanie began re-teaching Scott the concepts he would need upon returning home. Jenna said, "In addition to physical gains after an injury, some individuals with brain injuries need to relearn concepts like basic calculations, how to have productive conversations and even how to prepare food. Scott has done all of these things to make it possible for him to live on his own again." Mark Constantino, Director of Rehabilitation for Heritage Ministries, is also pleased with Scott's progress. "In my years of working in the rehabilitation department, we've served many individuals following traumatic brain injury. What's unique about Scott's story is the degree of improvements he made which has allowed for his transitioning back into independent living in his own community. Not only has Scott recovered from many physical disabilities, but he also regained his purpose. As an employee of Fitzpatrick & Weller for 26 years, Scott's greatest personal achievement has been the opportunity to return to work. It's not too often in which rehab at a skilled nursing facility can assist an individual to return to work."

Scott's goal of returning to work would not have been possible if it were not for his employer being so supportive of him. Tom Tressler, manager at Fitzpatrick & Weller, has been extremely helpful in his recovery saying that, "If Scott is able to come back to work, we have work for him. Scott has been through a major accident, and his recovery is absolutely great. We are happy to support him and to have him return to work." Those words from Mr. Tressler have been so important to Scott's recovery. When Scott spoke about his job, his eyes lit up. Scott said that his job consisted of grading lumber using a grading stick, drying the lumber in a kiln, and weighing the dried wood at the end of the process. He explained, "Most of the wood that we work with is sold to China for use of production processes abroad." In addition to the support of his employer, Scott's brother, Mike Donner, has been his best advocate. Scott's brother has been instrumental in his care; he visits him often, takes him on trips, and follows up on his care. The Heritage Green staff has been appreciative of Scott's brother's help. Jenna Sadowski commented that it is always nice to see family members involved in resident's care; it helps us tremendously. All of Scott's support system worked extremely hard to help him get into a position where he could go home. When Heritage Green gave that positive report to the state regarding Scott's ability to leave long-term care, Scott's homecare was referred to a homecare solution located in Cattaraugus County. 

Venture Forthe, a personalized homecare services agency located throughout Western New York State, has worked with Scott and Heritage to facilitate his transition back into the community. Ray Colley, Scott's service coordinator, said that Scott is an exceptional case. Colley explained, "Scott has received top-notch care throughout his recovery; he has a wonderful support structure; and he has the necessary services to help him integrate back into his community." In terms of the funding, Scott received tentative approval for TBI Waiver services from Headway of Western, NY, Inc. The purpose of this program is to assist TBI patients move back into their homes, or help them to remain in their homes. Headway of Western, NY, Inc. referred the management of Scott's case to Venture Forthe, due, in part, to their convenient location in Olean as well as their ability to continue to provide quality support to Scott. When asked about Scott's case and the TBI Waiver Program, Ray Colley said, "This program is designed to give Scott the assistance he needs to live in his community. Scott wants to go back to work, which is not always the case. However, Scott is extremely motivated to return to his vocation, so we are here to help him be successful and to give him the tools he needs to do just that." Within the next week, Scott will move back to Ellicottville and resume his life. In his parting words he said, "I can't say enough good about what they've (the staff at Heritage Green) done." The staff at Heritage Green and the rest of Heritage Ministries wishes Scott Donner the best of luck. "We are all going to miss Scott, but we are tremendously pleased for him. This is what rehabilitation is all about," said Jenna Sadowski.

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