Editor's Note: Due to the late onset of winter, flu continues to show up in communities across the United States.

[slideshow]In December of 2009, 24-year-old Sarah Flack was admitted to Kindred Hospital-San Francisco Bay Area following a five-week stay at another hospital where she had been battling H1N1. “I moved to Kindred because my parents were told it was a good place for physical therapy and for weaning people off of ventilators,” Flack says. “The staff there was phenomenal.”

One of the things that Flack liked about Kindred Hospital was the staff’s flexibility. “I was one of the youngest patients there, so I always had family in my room during visiting hours and sometimes even after,” she says. “When I was first admitted to Kindred, I was in a room with another patient, and it was just too crowded. So I asked for another room, and within a few hours, they moved me into a room that had plenty of space.”

During her hospital stay, Flack received physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and respiratory therapy. “All of my therapists were great,” she says. “Toward the end of my stay, my occupational therapist arranged for me to have a shower, which made me really happy because I had only had bed baths for weeks,” she says. “At that time, I could stand but couldn’t walk, so she helped me into the shower where there was a bench I could sit on.”

Flack says her therapists were able to push her to get better without seeming too demanding. “They knew how hard it was and they were very patient,” she says. “The staff got me off the ventilator and walking in a little over two weeks, and I even made it home for Christmas. They also made sure I was set up for outpatient therapy before I was discharged. I would gladly recommend Kindred to anyone who needs this type of care.”

Helping People Recover from the Flu One Step at a Time

Many people don’t realize how debilitating the flu can be. But according to Patty Levin, M.S., CCC, SLP, Director of Rehabilitation, RehabCare,  patients are sometimes admitted to Kindred facilities for long-term therapy after a bout with influenza. “By the time they’re admitted for rehab, many flu patients have developed complex medical problems,” she says. “Some may have suffered from respiratory distress, or even respiratory arrest, and need to be weaned from a ventilator. Many are too weak to walk, perform activities of daily living, or even talk.”

When a patient is admitted for rehab, Levin says, the first course of action is to do a functional assessment. “We look at what they can do now compared to what they could do before they became ill,” she says. “One of the first things we do is assess their level of mobility. Can the patient move in bed, sit on the edge of the bed, stand, or even take a few steps with assistance? Once we’ve determined what the patient can do, we start slow with therapy, then gradually move the patient toward more difficult activities. The goal is to increase the patient’s strength and tolerance over time.”

In addition to physical and respiratory therapy, many post-influenza patients also need occupational therapy and speech therapy. “Some patients are so weak, they’re unable to brush their own teeth, dress themselves, or even comb their own hair,” says Levin. “Others are unable to speak. The occupational and speech therapists will work with them to help restore those skills.”

Once a week, the multidisciplinary team (physicians, therapists, dietitians, nurses and case managers) gets together to discuss progress and review patient goals. “We meet and talk about what’s going on with each patient,” Levin says. “We also discuss discharge planning, and if there are any special needs that must be met in order for the patient to return home safely.”

Picture of Sarah taken 12/21/2009 during Sarah's stay at Kindred.