Atrium Health Carolinas Rehabilitation, ranked among the nation’s top 15 best rehabilitation hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, provided the expert care necessary to help Jim Beel recover from a complex injury and resume his life.

News | 10 months ago

Nationally Ranked Rehabilitation Hospital Helps Get Life Back on Track for Jim After Complex Injury

Atrium Health Carolinas Rehabilitation, ranked among the nation’s top 15 best rehabilitation hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, provided the expert care necessary to help Jim Beel recover from a complex injury and resume his life.

When Jim Beel arrived at Atrium Health Carolinas Rehabilitation with a complex brain injury in October 2018, he knew he had a long road ahead of him. He had to virtually re-learn all basic motor functions, with the ultimate goal of one day getting back out onto the golf course. He was in desperate need of an expert care team to help him achieve his goals. Lucky for him, he came to the right spot for help.

Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 15 hospitals in the nation for rehabilitation and the only rehabilitation hospital in Charlotte to be given this distinction, Carolinas Rehabilitation gave him hope that he could one day return to doing the things he loves.

“People taught me how to put my shoes on,” recalls Jim. “Then they taught me how to walk and how to eat. Then they taught me how to speak because I was slurring my words. My care team at Carolinas Rehabilitation corrected all of that and more.”

Overcoming obstacles

From the moment he came through the doors at Carolinas Rehabilitation, Jim was aided by a multi-disciplinary team who immediately jumped into action to kickstart his recovery. His significant other, Sherry Jones, was also there every step of the way and served as a valued support system alongside his recovery team.

“When he came to us, he was on tube feedings,” says Kelly Crawford, MD, medical director of Carolinas Rehabilitation’s brain injury program. “He wasn’t walking and had some severe cognitive issues. Sherry was doing a lot of the talking for him and giving a lot of answers to our questions because of his cognition at that time.”

Jim stayed at Carolinas Rehabilitation for about three weeks, working through an arduous daily schedule. An occupational therapist would arrive in the morning to help him dress and re-learn that process. After breakfast, he’d go through his physical therapy, speech therapy or other rehab therapies he needed, totaling nearly five hours each day.

“In between, there would be rest sessions and time to regain his strength and prepare for the next therapy,” Sherry says. “This was on a daily basis, Monday through Saturday, and usually a day of rest on Sunday. The therapy was just state-of-the art and very comprehensive. They were very patient with him and it was all very well organized.”

Jim was doing well, on a diet and getting around using a walker. But he still needed surgery on his skull. To make matters more complex, Jim one day lost his footing and broke his hip, which resulted in emergency surgery and further delayed the surgery he needed on his skull.

Jim wound up back at Carolinas Rehabilitation after undergoing hip surgery. He was using a wheelchair upon arrival, but he advanced to using a rolling walker within a few weeks and transitioned to Carolinas Rehabilitation’s outpatient clinic, where Dr. Crawford would see him every 2-3 months.

As he continued his journey, he overcame obstacles along the way. At one particular clinic visit, Dr. Crawford observed that Jim had declined significantly, physically and cognitively. “We had to have a heart-to-heart,” she says. “I could barely get him to wake up, to even speak, maybe say a few words and answer some questions.”

Jim needed surgery – this time to correct syndrome of the trephined, more commonly known as “sinking flap syndrome”. Sinking flap syndrome is a rare complication that can sometimes occur after a patient undergoes a large craniectomy – surgery that removes a portion of the skull in order to relieve pressure on the brain. It can result in sunken skin above the bone defect. His care team jumped into action, putting a referral in for Atrium Health’s neurosurgery experts.

A rapid recovery beyond expectations

Jim took Dr. Crawford’s advice and had surgery. “That was a huge decision,” he says. “I started getting better much faster after we did that.”

After Jim’s surgery at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center,  which is also ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Hospital” in the Charlotte metro region, Dr. Crawford noticed tremendous progress just two days later. He was awake, alert, and moving better.

After three weeks, Jim was on a regular diet with no tube feeding and he was walking 600 feet with a walking roller.

Jim returned home in September 2019 and has continued outpatient therapy, seeing Dr. Crawford. “He’s just been remarkable,” she says. “He’s even surpassed my expectations of what I expected his outcome to be. He’s running 20 minutes a day and playing 18 holes of golf.”

Sherry loves how the therapy team worked with him on his daily process. Jim credits everyone at Carolina Rehabilitation for pushing him. “You do what you have to do,” he says. “Whatever they asked me to do – whether I liked it or not or whether it was painful or not – I did it. And by doing that, slowly but surely, I got better.”

Learn more about rehabilitation and therapy at Atrium Health Carolinas Rehabilitation.