Choosing a Rehab Facility: Moving from Acute to Rehabilitation: What to Expect

When you have a spinal cord injury, the first step to recovery is healing any damaged bones and your body. It is important to let any other injuries heal that you may have experienced when you became paralyzed. Once your health is stable, you can begin the next step in the recovery process: spinal cord injury rehabilitation.

For most people with SCIs, their rehabilitation experience begins one to three weeks after the initial injury. Depending on your transportation needs, an ambulance is typically used to bring you to your rehab facility. Recent advancements in medical technology and increased research on spinal cord injuries has led to rehab facilities admitting patients with SCIs as soon after their injury as possible. Keep in mind that the rehabilitation process is starting sooner than ever before for patients, so do not be surprised to hear that you may be transferred to rehab within a month after your initial injury.

Transferring to Rehabilitation

When you are newly injured, the main focus is to heal your body and to stabilize your health, especially if you have any broken bones or other injuries in addition to your SCI. Healing can take 1 to 3 weeks, but often times this process can be longer depending on the severity of the additional injuries. Once your physical health is stable, your doctors will begin to assess if you are ready for rehabilitation therapy.

When patients are transferred from the hospital to rehabilitation, this is often their first time getting out of bed since their injury. Getting out of bed for the first time after an injury can be a jarring aspect of your healing process. Many people feel lightheaded and dizzy when they first sit up in their wheelchair. When transferring from your bed to a wheelchair, from a wheelchair into a transportation vehicle, and from the vehicle to the rehab center, be conscious of how you are feeling and make sure to alert the hospital staff if you feel light-headed or anxious.

Typical SCI Rehab Experience

To determine if you are ready for rehabilitation, you must prove to your doctors that you can handle at least 3 hours of rehabilitation therapy per day. 3 hours of rehabilitation per day is the standard for most rehab centers and health insurance companies. Acute rehabilitation is all about restoring function and increasing daily independence. You will partake in a lot of vigorous exercise throughout your time in rehab in order to improve your function as much as possible.

The acute rehabilitation experience lasts usually no longer than 1 to 3 months. At the end of your time in rehabilitation, the rehab staff will prepare you for discharge. Many of the things you learn in rehab are critical to living an independent life with a spinal cord injury, so much sure to pay close attention to your therapists and doctors.

– Watch Spinal Cord Injury – Laetitia Hatem’s Story | Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago:


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