When admitted to the $3 million, 41-bed brain injury unit at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, patients ranging in age from 16 to 86 and suffering from a traumatic accident, brain hemorrhage or tumor can barely dress, walk, or get out of bed. By the time they leave this lush, beautifully landscaped campus several weeks later, many can complete their daily tasks with only modest assistance. That’s when the difficult struggle to recovery begins, with a transfer either to Bryn Mawr’s intensive day treatment (with activities such as swimming, and gardening in a 1,500-square-foot greenhouse), outpatient or home-based therapy, a community re-entry program and family counseling. Teams of physicians work under the direction of renowned behavioral neurologist David Long. When mild brain injury (from a concussion, perhaps) causes lingering symptoms like memory impairment, mood swings, depression and loss of organizational skills, Bryn Mawr offers a targeted program to deal with these specific issues. It’s one of 10 institutions in the world belonging to the Consciousness Consortium, which conducts clinical studies in brain injury, and its award-winning “Cruisin’ Not Boozin’” drunk driving prevention presentations have taken the message to 300,000 students in five states (414 Paoli Pike Malvern, 610-251-5400, mainlinehealth.com/br).
Traumatic brain injuries occur every 23 seconds, leaving some 1.4 million Americans annually with physical, neurological, emotional and behavioral impairments. Since 1976, when it was established under Nathaniel Mayer, an international leader in the field, the Drucker Brain Injury Center at MossRehab has served more than 15,000 patients and returned 77 percent to live at home. Recently, many admissions have been soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among Drucker’s many outstanding features is its model continuum-of-care service, to help people navigate the long and murky road following hospitalization. It includes a day hospital program with intensive rehab that allows patients to go home at night; the Clubhouse, where members cook, clean and do other tasks to prepare them to return to the real world; the Community Re-Entry Program, to assess the life skills impaired by brain injury and create individualized treatments to help patients relearn them; the Nifty Café, which gives work to brain-injured patients; and the Community Residence Program, offering supervised transitional living arrangements. Particularly noteworthy is Drucker’s nationally funded Research Institute, whose important studies in areas like attention deficits, coma recovery and rehab outcomes have led to new drugs and protocols (60 Township Line Road, Elkins Park, http://www.einstein.edu/facilities/mossrehab/index.html215-663-6000, Einstein.edu/yourhealth/physicalrehab/braininjury).
Meredith Allen is typical of the thousands of successful cases who’ve come to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital over the years for rehabilitation from a brain injury. After a horrible car accident and a period of acute care, Allen spent three weeks at Magee in an intensive, personalized treatment program of occupational, physical and speech therapy and psychological counseling. She then graduated to an extended outpatient support program drawing upon the vast resources of this acclaimed hospital in cutting-edge technology and counseling in life, social and coping skills. Today she’s an example of Magee’s goal of providing life-long help so each patient can achieve the maximum level of independence. She is once again able to drive, use her computer and exercise at the gym. A hallmark of the services at Magee is an emphasis on the coordination of services — one of many reasons it was the first brain injury program in the country to be approved by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. It ranked 14th among rehab hospitals in the 2007 U.S. News & World Report survey (1513 Race Street, 215-587-3000, mageerehab.org).