Norfolk, VA - December 12, 2003 - An uncommon sight for a hospital campus, a car - a Volkswagen Jetta donated by a hospital employee - will be cut in half and lifted by crane the morning of Friday, December 12th along the exterior of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, up nine floors to a new Acute Functional Rehabilitation suite.
The car will allow staff, family members and wheelchair patients to practice getting into and out of an automobile and positioning themselves for the ride. The 1997 Jetta was donated by hospital employee Cindy Smith, a Sentara risk management associate who formerly worked as a nurse.
Acute Functional Rehabilitation helps patients with recently acquired disabilities learn how to function with day-to-day activities. Getting into and out of a car is something many patients took for granted before losing functional mobility due to stroke, brain or spinal cord injury, amputation, joint replacement or other orthopedic and neurological conditions. But now the task can seem daunting. Patients need to learn safe seating positions to protect their surgical wounds.
According to Kurt Hofelich, director of Sentara Rehab Network, the car is part of a redesign of the rehab unit that will put patients in an environment that looks and feels more like home than a clinical setting.
"It will include a full working kitchen, a bedroom area, a living room with a computer workstation, and the garage, where the car will be," says Hofelich. "These patients are working on the basics - standing, balancing, walking, getting from point A to point B. We realize that a major component of a patient's mobility today involves automobile transportation so the car is an important addition to our program."
With the input of psychologists and social workers, the car will also help automobile accident trauma victim's lessen the anxiety associated with the journey home from the hospital, often their first time in a car since their accidents or injuries.
Smith became involved with the project after initially offering to help locate an individual or car dealership willing to donate a car. She made phone calls, combed websites and scoured the newspaper's Auto Trader section in search of an appropriate vehicle, but none seemed worthy. When she stumbled upon the 1997 Jetta, she put forth her own money and bought it. She then contacted Sentara Health Foundation, to let them know she'd found the perfect car and a willing donor - herself.
"It just seemed the more I worked on the project, the more it became mine," said Smith.
"Having been a nurse, I understand the importance of giving our staff the right tools to do their job. I was looking for a newer car with manual equipment, low miles and a nice interior. I really wanted a car in good enough shape so that it could be used for an extended time by the rehab staff and patients. I'm just glad I was in a position to help."
Sentara Health Foundation was established in July 1998 to improve health and quality of life and to further Sentara's not-for-profit mission of serving the community. The primary focus of the Foundation is to identify unmet community health-related needs and to help enable solutions.