By JEROD CLAPP
NEW ALBANY —
In the winter of 1994, Randy Napier said he remembered taking his Jeep and driving patients to and from the Frazier Rehab Institute in the middle of the worst snowstorm the region saw in decades.
Meanwhile, maintenance crews were working on air-handling units in the snow on a facility he just opened as the president and chief operating officer of the Southern Indiana Rehabilitation Hospital.
Once the cold weather let up and they began taking patients in February, the center just kept growing.
“It worked out and we’re still here,” Napier said.
For 20 years, Napier said his rehab center has given about 75,000 patients the ability to become more self-sufficient after a serious injuries or other health problems in a place a little closer to home.
The key to that was making sure doctors and therapists treated patients as their own.
“When we first started, we said to everyone we hired that if they were willing to take care of all of our patients like they would their own family, then they could work here,” Napier said. “That’s the level of expertise we strive for.”
Since it opened late in 1993, Napier said a lot’s changed over the years. But he said ultimately, helping people recover from car accidents, strokes, brain injuries and other trauma remains as their biggest focus.
“Most of what we do is helping patients maintain as much independence as possible,” Napier said. “A lot of what happens here is because of therapists and doctors working alongside families.”
The facility opened under a partnership among three different hospitals — Clark Memorial Hospital, Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services and the Frazier Rehab Institute. Napier said recognizing the need for a rehab facility in Indiana, the three groups put aside their business interests to better serve the community.
Martin Padgett, president and CEO of Clark Memorial, said he’s glad the three hospitals worked together to bring the Southern Indiana Rehabilitation Hospital to life.
“It has been a great opportunity for three health systems in the region to put their competitive needs aside to work for the patient,” Padgett said. “It’s a fabulous facility. Ultimately, the health care facilities work together to get the best treatment for the patient.”
Since opening, trends in health care have come and gone. But Napier said technology has helped move things along.
Initially stocking their rehab gym with treadmills and other standard equipment, Brad Kruer, outpatient supervisor, said technology has come a long way in helping patients take care of themselves once they leave the facility. But they have to be careful on what new advances they adopt.
“As all of these technologies become more mainstream, the demand for them from patients increases,” Kruer said. “But we try to focus on the technologies that are going to improve patient outcomes.”
Kyong Totten, a stroke patient at the facility, is using some of that to help regain the ability to grasp and release with her hand. Using a spring-loaded glove, the SaeboFlex, she’s working to recover from the damage done.
Her husband, Charles, said she’s come a long way, but still has her eyes set on one goal in particular.
“She was paralyzed on her whole right side,” Charles said. “Now she walks at home without a walker, but her No. 1 goal is to plant her flowers again.”
He said her doctors said she’s at about 90 percent of her abilities before the stroke. While he said the last 10 percent is likely to prove the most difficult, he’s confident she’ll get there at the facility.
Rick Miller, a tennis coach at Floyd Central High School, is also a patient. Following an operation, he was paralyzed from the waist down. Now, he said he’s regaining his ability to walk.
“I’m sure they’ve won a lot of awards, but they’re going to get my award,” Miller said. “I’m going to tell everyone about this place.”
Though advances in technology have helped along the recovery of patients, Kruer said it takes more than gadgets to help.
“The technology can only go so far, but the person behind the care is what makes us successful,” Kruer said. “I think it speaks volumes that we’ve been successful for 20 years based on that philosophy.”
Napier said his facility continues to work in tandem with its three partners. Frazier handles its IT, records and some business operations. Floyd Memorial handles its pharmacy operations and Clark Memorial takes care of its lab work.
Mark Shugarman, president and CEO of Floyd Memorial Hospital, said as service needs grow in the region, the Southern Indiana Rehabilitation Hospital has been an invaluable resource.
“I think the rehabilitation hospital has done a great job making sure the services they offer meet the needs of the community,” Shugarman said. “They provide a wide variety of services, both on inpatient and outpatient sides and have achieved high levels in everything that they do.”
Napier said it’s worked with other health care centers in the community, too. He said it’s worked with BridgePointe Services and Goodwill Industries of Southern Indiana to help with some of its operations. He said doing so has helped that small facility remain successful in health care.
Along with that, it also does other community service projects to help patients and their caretakers. He said its annual stroke camp gets stroke patients out of their normal setting at home to give them a retreat at the Country Lake Christian Retreat in Henryville.
He said it also sponsors the Senior Games, bike rodeo for the school systems and a brain injury camp.
In 2012, though the hospital got a little of the spotlight for treating Stephanie Decker, who lost her legs in the tornadoes that devastated Henryville, he said other events that don’t get a lot of media attention change people forever all the time.
“This is what we do every day,” Napier said. “Maybe it’s not as severe as a tornado, but people’s lives are turned upside down every day with car accidents, or falling out of tree stands.”
He said the hospital may continue to grow. A new facility has been approved by its board of directors for the River Ridge Commerce Center, which he said is set to open this fall. He also said he hopes to start a capital campaign for more private rooms for inpatient services in 2014. If it works out, he hopes to start construction next year.
Miller said he’s still got a long way to go for his recovery, but he’s glad he’s getting services at this hospital.
“This place has restored my confidence in the medical field,” Miller said. “They’re caring people. I feel like I’m very thankful for what people here do for me.”