Tragedy meets triumph at Methodist Rehabilitation Center

by For the MBJ

Published: April 21,2008

From the teenager who has been in a devastating car accident or the mother who has had a stroke, tragedy may bring folks to the Methodist Rehabilitation Center, yet it’s not a place where it can triumph.

Methodist Rehab opened its doors in 1975 to meet a critically important need in Mississippi. Its purpose was to provide inpatient rehabilitation following a neurological or orthopedic injury/illness. The 124-bed hospital on Woodrow Wilson Boulevard in Jackson treats approximately half of all brain and spinal cord injuries that occur in state, in addition to referrals from other states. As Mississippi’s only comprehensive research and rehabilitation hospital, Methodist Rehab Center receives a high percentage of severe cases and is truly one of the best rehab hospitals in the nation. It has twice been honored as the only hospital in Mississippi to be named one of America’s Best by U.S. News & World Report, and twice named one of only 16 Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems in the nation.

According to Chris Blount, executive director of the Wilson Research Foundation (fund-raising arm of Methodist Rehab Center), the research program at Methodist Rehab allows the center to attract world renowned talent in rehabilitation medicine, and keeps the center’s doctors, nurses and therapists at the forefront of neurological rehabilitation. “The researchers work to figure out what works, in whom and why. In addition to long-term scientific benefit, the center’s research program helps patients immediately through more accurate diagnosis, treatment and measures of progress.”

Inpatient rehabilitation at the main hospital is the core business, although Methodist Rehab has expanded in recent years to include many more services as well. The Methodist Specialty Care Center (opened in 2004) is a 60-bed, one-of-a-kind residential facility in Flowood for severely disabled persons, many of whom are quadriplegics. The facility is designed to meet the needs and interests of younger victims of severe disability, many of whom are in their late teens or 20s. “This is an amazing story,” said Blount, “because all over the nation, younger quadriplegics are sent to geriatric nursing homes. We feel that is an inappropriate environment for a young person.”

The Rehab Center is also involved with housing for the disabled. “Methodist Rehab builds and manages wheelchair-accessible apartment complexes for independent-living disabled individuals, with complexes in Jackson and Hattiesburg, and one under construction in Meridian,” Blount explained.
The Wilson Research Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created in 1989 with a seed gift from the H.C. McCarty Jr. family for the purpose of supporting the hospital. The foundation is named for the late Earl Wilson, founding chairman of Methodist Rehab, and Martha Lyles Wilson, in honor of their passion for helping disabled Mississippians.

The foundation’s focus to date has been on developing a world-class research and education program. “We have provided over $1.7 million in grants to the hospital’s research program,” Blount said, “and our researchers have been able to grow that investment by obtaining more than $6.5 million in research grants from various sources, including government and industry. Research remains our most important funding need, as it affects everything we do at Methodist Rehab. It is a key factor in what distinguishes us as one of the most effective, results-oriented rehab centers in the nation.”

Blount explained that the foundation’s role has expanded to include helping to fund the hospital itself. “There’s no question that we’ve built a great rehab center and that we’ve expanded with innovative services for the disabled, but there is so much more we could do, more people we could help and in more significant ways, if we were not held back by growing financial pressures.”

While helping the disabled to recover their functions and abilities, or to give a good quality of life to the catastrophically disabled, is, of course, a wonderful and worthy cause, there’s also an economic development issue involved. “We are returning many of our patients to productivity. The most recent statistics bear out that 78% of our patients return to independent living rather than to a nursing home or other dependent care. That statistic is truly remarkable when one considers the severity of illnesses and injuries we deal with at this center. Many of our patients return to competitive employment. I don’t yet have the statistics to demonstrate the economic impact of this aspect, but there is no question that helping to restore function for these citizens, has a profound, positive economic impact for Mississippi.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer S.J. Anderson at andersonwrites@yahoo.com .

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