Brain injury unit to expand

WILLISTOWN — Lisa Yaffe was riding a bicycle near Dartmouth College, where she was attending school, when she was struck by a vehicle traveling 55 mph.

Yaffe twice went into cardiac arrest before slipping into a five-week coma.

She was taken to Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital to recover from brain injuries suffered in the accident. Although she still has some balance problems and experiences other residual effects of the accident, Yaffe graduated from Dartmouth and can now walk on her own.

“From the moment we arrived at this hospital, they adopted her,” Yaffe's father, Dr. Harold Yaffe, said of the doctors at Bryn Mawr. “They took us under their wing and fought with us for her recovery.”

With a 50 percent increase in patients with brain injuries during the past few years, the hospital, located at 414 Paoli Pike, is renovating and expanding its brain injury unit to better treat patients and help them through what can be a long, frustrating road to recovery. On Wednesday evening, hospital administrators held a meeting in the main therapy gym to discuss the expansion and give family members of brain-injured patients the opportunity to talk about their experiences with the hospital.

The hospital, among the first institutions in the country to specialize in the treatment of brain injury, began the $2.9 million project March 8 and is expected to complete construction in early 2007. All of the expansion is occurring on the second floor of the hospital.

Main Line Health, which includes Bryn Mawr Rehab, Bryn Mawr, Lankenau and Paoli hospitals, has committed $1.9 million toward the project. Another $625,000 has been raised in donations, and hospital personnel are asking for donors to help raise an additional $375,000.

Joanne Stevens Hoertz, vice president of clinical and support services, said the hospital is expanding the number of beds in the brain injury unit from 29 to 41. Also included in the project is the addition of a gym on the second floor, an intensive monitoring suite for patients with a higher level of acuity to experience increased visual stimulation and an expanded family lounge.

Family members often spend numerous hours at the hospital to be near their loved ones, and families of different patients often end up establishing a close bond, Hoertz said. By expanding the lounge, more family members will be able to visit the hospital and be comfortable while there.

“A brain injury changes the entire family's life,” Hoertz said.

About 600 brain injury patients receive inpatient care each year at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, and an additional 500 patients participate in outpatient and day treatment programs. Traumatic brain injury — whether caused by car accidents, sports, aneurysms or other illnesses and accidents — is the leading cause of death for people younger than 45.

Dr. David F. Long, medical director of the brain injury program, said the expansion will give hospital personnel the means to provide the best possible care. An example of an improvement, Long said, is a planned observation room that will help recently injured patients adjust to their environment. Patients often go through a period where they become easily agitated, Long said, and the observation room will give them practice in adjusting to an environment similar to their home.

Such additions are welcomed by people like C. Lee Hervey, whose daughter was injured in a 1986 accident and continues to see Long as a patient.

“Bryn Mawr is our home,” Hervey said. “It's in our backyard.”


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