ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition features Kennedy Krieger Patient
(The following excerpt has been reproduced with permission from Kennedy Krieger Institute.)
It’s not often that a hospital is approached by the producers of a major television program and asked to put together a wish list of amenities that would help create a dream home for a patient paralyzed in all four limbs. Or for that experience to be captured on camera and shared with millions of viewers across the nation.
It is, in fact, almost never. Still, it’s the kind of dream world in which reality television thrives. And it’s a dream world that came to life for 24-year-old Kennedy Krieger Institute spinal cord injury patient Brian Keefer, when ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition selected his family to be featured during its ninth season, in an episode scheduled to air on Friday, October 21 (8 p.m. Eastern). But Keefer and his family weren’t the only ones amazed by the once-in-a-lifetime experience: Members of his Kennedy Krieger care team were also thrilled by the possibilities introduced by the show, whose popularity, along with Keefer’s incredible story, induced various manufacturers to donate items —including expensive equipment and amenities that most patients could never afford for their homes.
“When the show first contacted us and let us know Brian was being considered, they asked us what equipment we would recommend to design the therapy room of his dreams,” recalls Nikia Stinson, one of Brian’s outpatient physical therapists. “And how would we remodel the house to make it most accessible for him, so that he could be as independent as possible? The producers were very open to any suggestions we had. They said the sky was the limit—if we could do anything, what would we do?”
‘The Very Best’
To best answer that question, Brian’s care team in the Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury—including Stinson, occupational therapist Jenn Silvestri, aquatherapist and occupational therapist Kim Obst, physical therapy assistant and aquatherapist Kim Rotondo, adapted aquatics manager Christy Sachs, and physician Daniel Becker—gathered together and brainstormed over what kinds of therapeutic equipment would be ideal and best meet Brian’s current and long-term needs and goals? The resulting list, Stinson says, was extensive and had to be toned down a little. But in the end, she continues, the show procured an enviable range of therapeutic equipment and tools for a patient who deserves the very best.
That includes a bodyweight support harness that moves along a special track throughout parts of Brian’s home, allowing him to move independently and a voice-operated system that allows him to open and close doors and do other tasks through vocal commands. Even more impressive, however, is the HydroWorx therapy pool, similar to those used by Kennedy Krieger’s aquatherapy program. It is especially rare, says Obst, for patients to have their own therapy pool, complete with an underwater treadmill and lift system so that Brian can navigate himself in and out. “These pools are really expensive and just for the installation alone you need a good set-up,” Obst says. “So it’s pretty uncommon and a neat thing for Brian to have.”
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