One step at a time: Kyle woman makes strides towards relearning to walk

By Kim Hilsenbeck

Warm Springs Rehabilitation Hospital in Kyle is known as a state-of-the-art facility. But for Julia Martinez of Kyle, it’s where she goes to see her angels.

That’s what she calls the staff at Warm Springs – people she met several months ago when she had to learn to walk again.

The room where Martinez is lying flat on an exercise table is bright and clean. Aaron Miller, physical therapist at Warm Springs, puts Martinez through the paces of her exercises.

“He’s a little crazy but he’s great,” Martinez said of Miller. “He pushes me to the limit.”

Beneath her was a blood pressure cuff; her goal was to maintain a level of 50 while performing pelvic exercises.

What is she doing?

“Working on core strength and stability,” Miller said. “Because of the pelvic fracture, injuries and trauma to that area and the tissue in that area, she has a hard time controlling… her movement …This is a reeducation tool for her to use to facilitate that – to get those muscles firing – in a way she can control it.”

The Kyle facility opened just a few months ago. Taci Archer, Martinez’s case manager and an RN at Warm Springs, said “When [Martinez] came to us, she’d had no physical therapy.”

That meant months of inactivity. So her injuries were compounded by the lack of strength and conditioning.

Martinez shared how she came to Warm Springs.

She and her three-year-old grandson, Brandon, survived a severe car accident in April, but the damages to her pelvis (broken in both the front and back), leg (all ligaments torn) and liver (severed) were life changing.

At the time, she’d quit her job with the state to take care of her aging father and no longer had any health insurance. Her husband could not add her on his insurance policy until open enrollment in July.

Following a 26-day stay at Seton Medical Center Brackenridge, including several days in the Intensive Care Unit where doctors did not expect her to live, Martinez now faces a quarter of a million dollars in medical bills.

She doesn’t remember much from the week after the accident. When she finally came to in the hospital, she thought she and her family were still going on a camping trip. 

“I told my mom we were still going camping,” Martinez said. “She said, ‘No, honey, you’re not going anywhere.’”

The past few months have been rough on Martinez, she said, dealing not only with the physical pain and relearning to walk, but also with the psychological aspect of her situation.

“I couldn’t understand why this happened to me,” she said through tears.

Martinez still sees a counselor to help her cope with the aftereffects of the accident.

As for the financial situation, Martinez said she and her husband have retained two attorneys who work on a contingency basis.

“We’re fighting the insurance company of the lady who hit me,” she said.

After her accident, one of her father’s hospice nurses told Martinez about Warm Springs.

The rehab facility offered to cover the first portion of her therapy, Archer said.

Martinez was immobile from April 25 to August 4. During that time, she also gained weight from not being able to move much at all.

“I was in a really bad place,” Martinez said. “Having to start over like a baby has been a tough task. But the strength that they give me here makes me feel like Wonder Woman.”

She and Archer joked that she should wear that costume for Halloween.

While looking in a mirror, Martinez did leg exercises to help get back her gait. She grimaced during much of her therapy, audibly moaning with the movements. There were some tears as well.

Archer said when Martinez first started her therapy, it was as if she had frozen joints; the real therapy couldn’t begin until the therapists loosened her joints. 

Martinez was wheelchair bound for almost the entire two weeks she was in in-patient therapy.

She is now in outpatient therapy three days a week. Her sessions run 45 minutes to an hour.

Martinez wrapped up her therapy session.

“She’ll be in the pool next week,” Miller said. “One of the benefits of being in this facility is we offer aquatic therapy.”

He said Martinez is still having trouble walking.

“When she gets in the pool, it unweights her and helps her walk,” he said.

Archer explained some of the features at Warm Springs. The facility has an in-house X-ray, lab and pharmacy. It also has what’s called the Biodex weight system for the treadmill, which allows patients to walk while being what’s called ‘deweighted.’

 It’s a way of taking the weight off so the person can perform the exercise without dealing with the pressure of body weight., Archer said.

Warm Springs also has a partnership with Seton Medical Center Hays.

Archer said, “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulates that rehabilitation facilities must have a partnership with an acute care facility because you need that continuum of care.”

Warm Springs also has the Tolos weight track – it’s a walking track for people who are paralyzed or can’t move on one side.

“They can still work those muscles without putting any weight on their legs,” she said. “We are the only place in Central Texas that has one.”

There are a few other rehab facilities in Central Texas, including Reliant in South Austin and St. David’s Medical Center. But Archer believes they each have their place.

“We all have something different to offer,” she said.

She believes there is more and more need for rehab facilities, particularly as the population ages.

“It’s very expensive to put people in a nursing home. Many people come here to get stronger so they can go home,” she said.

Quick facts about Warm Springs Rehabilitation

It’s a for-profit facility

40 beds, all private rooms; average about 18 patients at any given time in the in-patient hospital

Six specialty rooms: four bariatric rooms; 350 lbs or above, morbidly obese – specially weighted for up to 750 lbs. and two infectious disease rooms; air filtration systems separate from other rooms; open the door and the air is sucked into the room not out of it

All rooms are handicapped accessible and have a shower chair

Average length of stay is about 14 days

Warm Springs is a small division of Post Acute Medical in PA

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