When Jeannette Shriver visited Greenville for her son’s college graduation in early May, she didn’t expect to be back in South Carolina again so soon, but she was: Her son got into a jet ski accident during Memorial Day weekend 2013, and she traveled from Pennsylvania to be by his side during treatment. Here’s her story about Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital and what a difference The Peace House made during their journey.
I am a native of Greenville and a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina (USC) in Columbia. In October 2013, I was struck by a stray bullet while waiting for a cab in the Five Points area of Columbia. I was then just 18 years old. This tragic event left me paralyzed and in a wheelchair
After attending inpatient rehabilitation in Atlanta for two months, I returned home to Greenville to continue my journey. I attended Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital (RCP) for outpatient rehabilitation for five months. At RCP, I gained skills that enabled me to live independently and greatly increased my quality of life.
The next fall, I returned to school to continue my education. Without RCP and the wonderful people who work for Greenville Health System, I would not be where I am now.
Allen Funk moved from Spartanburg to Keowee Key several years ago. In 2008, he expected family and friends to join him for a beach vacation, but those plans would be interrupted by a disease that only one or two people out of 100,000 experience in a lifetime – Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a neurological disorder in which the immune system attacks the nerves and can cause paralysis in hours.
It began as a tingle in his feet and then spread. Over the next two days, Allen would become paralyzed from the neck down.
The cause of Guillain-Barre is not known, but for many affected people it’s triggered by a respiratory infection or common flu virus. In most cases, GBS sufferers eventually make a full recovery but have a risk of relapse and loss of mobility or motor skills. In Allen’s case, a trip to Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital (RCP) of Greenville Health System was in order after 10 days in Intensive Care at Georgetown Hospital.
“The crew that worked with me at RCP went above and beyond. I always felt like I was the only patient they were working with,” Funk said.
Allen’s medical team included a neurophysiologist, recreational therapist, occupational therapist, physician, and physical therapist. His family and friends were also essential in his healing experience.
Early one morning in 2007, George Newman struggled to get out of bed. He was having difficulty speaking and was off-balance – the 49-year-old was having a stroke. His wife called 911 and he was rushed to the Emergency Room as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
As soon as he had stabilized and regained his senses, Newman began stroke protocol therapy to identify damaged areas of the brain and attempt to “re-route” lost connections. He spent time as an inpatient at Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital (RCP) and eventually moved to the outpatient facility and West End Co-op.
At the co-op, the former trucking manager learned he had a real talent for jewelry making and helping new patients. The only lasting effect of Newman’s stroke was damage to a language processing area, which would limit his ability to return to his old job.
Newman enjoyed working at the co-op so much that he stayed on as a volunteer when his treatment ended. Now he’s a West End Co-op employee.
“It’s a blessing to be able to learn new things and have a job I love,” said Newman. “I always enjoyed little tinkering projects and working with my hands, and now that’s part of my job. I also get to help patients and families as they cope with brain injury and show them that life isn’t over. Brain injury forces you to change, but it doesn’t mean you can’t live life and be happy.”
When Tyler Page was 22, he suffered a brain injury in Spartanburg after returning to college from a break. He was transferred to RCP where family members would take turns staying in his room to provide company and support. Tyler now participates in RCP’s outpatient brain injury program three days a week, and his grandparents, who live in Union, travel more than 400 miles each week to transport him back and forth to therapies while his mom works.
Because many families like Tyler’s feel the strain of that extra time and travel, RCP has placed a high priority on raising support for The Peace House, a project that hopes to improve access to care and provide hope and support for traveling patients and their families in the form of a place to stay. When completed in late spring, The Peace House will hold up to six families in a space offering both privacy as well as common spaces for interaction and support from other families facing similar challenges.
“It would have helped us then and now to have The Peace House,” said Tyler’s grandfather. “We’re grateful the community has provided support to make it possible.”
Along with providing families with a safe, comfortable place to stay, The Peace House also will allow RCP to better serve our service members returning from battle. Thousands of injured troops returning from recent wars have suffered traumatic brain injuries, and RCP is uniquely equipped to provide treatment for their injuries.
“The Peace House will function as a ‘home away from home’ for our patients and their families,” said Elaine Phillips, M.S.P., CCC-SLP, manager of the RCP Outpatient Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program. “It will decrease their travel costs, lower their stress and allow them to focus on what’s important – rehabilitation and recovery.”