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Dawn Birtwistle Non-Surgical Fractured Vertebrae “I fell down a flight of stairs in July, 2005.” “I was unconscious and brought to St. Luke’s then airlifted to Mass General Hospital.” Dawn Birtwistle fractured the first three vertebrae in her spine and her family was told if she lived, she would never talk or walk again. Dawn was transferred to New Bedford Rehab Hospital that August and remained on a breathing vent until the fall of 2005. She also had a voice box and wore a Stabilizing Halo to keep the vertebrae in place. Dawn did not undergo surgery and six months after the injury the halo was removed. Five years later, Dawn is walking, and she is talking. In fact she was the guest of honor at the 2009 Five Star Rehab & Wellness Open House where she spoke in front of State Representative, John F. Quinn, Five Star staff, and executives. Yet Dawn’s journey of rehabilitation continues to be a daily one. “Everything is therapy for me; I take the stairs instead of the elevator for the movement and exercise.” After months in an inpatient rehabilitation hospital, then a nursing home, Dawn regained her ability to sit, stand, and take steps. She was discharged to go home in December of 2005, and continued to receive care from visiting nurses and therapists. However, she primarily stayed in a hospital bed and walked very little. “I don’t think I would have progressed as much as I have if I remained at home and didn’t come to outpatient therapy at Five Star.” In April of 2006, sitting in a wheelchair, Dawn rolled into the Five Star Rehab & Wellness North Dartmouth clinic. She began physical therapy with Heather Robinson a Physical Therapist specializing in neurological conditions. “I can not say enough about the clinic and about the people who work at Five Star. I can’t say enough about Heather.” “ People like me, we’re so fragile, [not only physically but] psychologically and the therapists have such an impact on a patient.” Working with Heather, not only is Dawn walking, she has now been able to successfully get herself up off the floor by herself. This task is a huge accomplishment of strength and coordination. Dawn continues to set goals for herself including, next being able to walk around the block by herself. She can currently take short walks accompanied by friends and family but expresses a great desire to regain her independence. In addition to physical therapy, Dawn also underwent occupational therapy with Kim Roberts and Lynn Charbonneau at Five Star North Dartmouth to help strengthen the muscles and movement in her hands. She has continuous tingling feelings all over which she compares to the same feeling as hitting your funny bone. That is why she has found the Aquatic Therapy program at Five Star so beneficial. In the pool “…I feel so independent; I can jump and bounce around…I feel like a different person!” Dawn is an inspiration to the staff and other patients at Five Star Rehab & Wellness. We admire her determination and unflagging spirit. She is a true success and we at Five Star feel honored to be a part of and observe her triumphs.
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