After undergoing a second surgery to treat the painful symptoms of spinal stenosis in early 2015, Rob Chisholm and his family were looking for local physical rehab facilities where he could receive the physical and occupational therapy he needed to get him back on his feet.
The task turned out to be harder than they expected. Chisholm’s care manager had prepared a list of local facilities for him to consider, all of which were filled to capacity. But there was one that the family hadn’t considered.
“I had this ‘Aha!’ moment where I said, ‘Why don’t we go to Bryn Mawr Rehab?’ It wasn’t local, but it was a place I knew and had heard good things about,” recalls Chisholm.
Chisholm, who lives in Pottstown, had several friends who had received care at Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital in Malvern, and his wife had spent time there after a double knee replacement in 2012. After receiving approval from his care manager and Bryn Mawr Rehab’s team of physicians, Chisholm arrived at the hospital in the middle of a snowstorm on the afternoon of March 5, 2015.
Over the course of the next nine days, Chisholm began his recovery. Daily sessions in the gym with occupational and physical therapists focused on helping Chisholm accomplish his daily activities without putting his spine at risk. He practiced dressing, bathing, and feeding himself, using a wheelchair and—eventually—making it safely up and down the steps with his walker.
Though physical rehab for any injury can be demanding, Chisholm says his therapy team kept him motivated and positive.
“I have an optimistic nature, but I felt even better because of the people helping me,” says Chisholm. “I was getting stronger, and my willpower was growing every day. Without all of my therapy teams and the work that we did, I wouldn’t have been able to walk out the door and go home nine days later.”
In addition to his time in the gym, Chisholm also found some time to experience horticultural therapy during his stay at Bryn Mawr Rehab. On his last morning there, per the recommendation of one of his therapists, Chisholm visited the hospital’s Sydney Thayer III Horticultural Center.
Led by Pam Young, the Horticultural Therapy Program allows patients to participate in greenhouse activities like planting, watering, or potting plants to improve their physical and social skills.
Although his visit to the greenhouse was brief, he calls the time he spent there ‘transformative’.
“When I walked in the door, the scent of the garden just hit me. It was so different from what I had done during the rest of my time there and I was acutely aware of everything—the sights, the smells, everything. It was a real highlight of my time at Rehab,” says Chisholm.
During his time in the greenhouse, Chisholm replanted eight 4-inch tomato plants into larger pots, an activity he enjoyed and hadn't been able to do for years.
"My back and leg pain had made it near impossible for me to get 'down and dirty' in my garden at home for many years," says Chisholm. "Horticultural therapy allowed me to do an activity I enjoyed without having to bend down or kneel."
Nearly one month after his time at Rehab, Chisholm has made great strides to getting back on his feet. The adaptive equipment that greeted him upon his return home has been put away, and he has graduated from using a walker to walking with a cane. Though the physical benefits of his treatment might be the most noticeable, Chisholm says it was a healing experience in many respects.
“I’m still making great progress, building on my strength and my stability, but the real impact of my stay at Rehab is knowing I was truly healed in mind, body, and spirit.”