A Heritage of Loving Service: The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in Tucson
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Heritage: The Story of St. Mary's Hospital, 1880-1980
By Leo G. Bryne and Sister Alberta Cammack, C.S.J

Chapter II Modern Medical Complex

As Medicare brought in new patients to the hospital so too did a new emphasis on rehabilitation therapy. The remarkable recovery of a retired nurse who had been paralyzed the year before by a stroke brought attention to this development in medical care. The patient could not remember the first day at the hospital when nurses began to exercise her left arm and leg, supporting and moving them for her. With returning strength she began to move and exercise by herself, undertaking a muscle reeducation program involving coordination and strengthening exercises. Practical tasks involved the use of left arm and hand, and, after thirty days of therapy, she was able to care for her basic needs and was ready to go home. A stroke patient had never improved so quickly before at St. Mary's. Under customary care, she would not have been muscle retraining for three weeks but, rather, would have been flat on her back with muscles and joints showing the effects of unbalanced muscle patterns due to the stroke.

As often happens in the case of new techniques, there was a galvanizing personality behind the new emphasis on rehabilitation. In the case of St. Mary's, this was Sister Regina Welch who led the way by organizing seminars with case studies and demonstrations. She enlisted the expertise of the Medical and outside speakers. Sister combined public and private agency specialists with hospital personnel, using every community assistance that could be located to meet the patient's need. In time, a respiratory clinic was set up, and disabilities other than those of a stroke patient were included in the program. Speech and Occupational Therapists, first furnished through outside agencies, became part of the staff. Sister engaged the services of two Physiatrists from Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix who came to St. Mary's twice a month to evaluate selected patients. Speech Therapy, together with Physical and Occupational Therapy formed the nucleus of the Rehabilitation Department.

In April of 1970, Dr. Kent L. Pomeroy joined St. Mary's staff as Director of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine. He reemphasized the necessity to work with the physical needs of the patient with regard to his/her disability and residual capacity and not just the individual disease or affected part. Dr. Pomeroy remained a year before returning to Phoenix. Dr. Stuart Holtzman replaced him in 1971 as head of the Department.

Recognition of the value of physical rehabilitation in a general hospital grew slowly. The doctors working with acute-care Patients viewed such services as functions of special rehabilitation centers where patients could stay for longer periods of time; however, the regimen established at St. Mary's proved the worth of providing physical rehabilitation services in an acute-care setting. It demonstrated an earlier restoration of functions and permitted patients to leave the hospital sooner than was generally possible.

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