Two Weeks Acute Care Boot Camp



It is not often a single man can make such an impact.

Dr. Alexander Dejesus is a doctor’s doctor in a hospital admired by other hospitals locally for what they do. His name as attending physician is written on every door, though he has a staff of specialists ever ready when he needs their help. The staff of medical professionals is huge, trained to assist in an acute care environment.

HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Sarasota off Bee Ridge Road has come a long way from its early beginning 25 years ago when it was only a 66-bed hospital. Dr. Dejesus has seen it grow in the past eight years since he has been onboard.

HealthSouth has a name of excellence in what they do. In a nutshell, they use an intensive approach to rehabilitation that outperforms its peers.

Patients meet their recovery goals in less than average time through an intense workout that could be likened on average to a two-week boot camp of rehabilitation.

“It is a lot of activity that has to take place in a short period of time,” explains Dr. Dejesus. “It is like putting the pieces back together. It is a Humpty Dumpty scenario.”

According to Dr. Dejesus, patients either travel to HealthSouth from other local hospitals, a nursing care facility, doctor’s offices or home. It depends on what happened to them and the steps necessary to achieve as full recovery as possible for each patient.

“Not everyone has the same goals. Patients need to be realistic with their goals,” Dr. Dejesus says. “The goal is to get them back where they were before.”

It is the “before” that is key. And, sometimes, it is only as close to the “before” as anyone can get. The psychological journey back to self is as important as the medical and physical one.

Patients that are dealing with stroke, amputations, arthritis, brain injury, hip fractures, joint replacements, multiple trauma, neurological disorders and spinal cord injury are evaluated and assigned a program of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy.

Some spend as many as five hours a day in the gym with meals and rest breaks. It is often a struggle for patients to really believe they will get better. It is hard to go with the program, and that is the challenge for all. The stay at HealthSouth is a journey in itself when a patient arrives.

Dr. Dejesus knows every patient’s name because he visits him or her throughout the day, from the first day they arrive until the last: broken, often without hope, sometimes near death.

They come to him with different ailments. Sometimes it is just a knee that has been replaced, or a hip they need to exercise and use in spite of the pain or fear. Often, it is a brain injury where they need to develop their own cognitive skills again. Sometimes, the patient is so weak or so broken, they are a miracle of life. They have to completely learn to live again in a new and different way.

Because he is so intimately involved with these victims of life, they are drawn to him as a child to a father. They ask his advice, they express their fears. Working side-by-side with him is a team of trained medical personnel, who have the same positive philosophy as their leader.

Jerry Johnson will have been released by the time this edition of DOCTORS hits the stands. His stay at HealthSouth began on May 30, 2012, though he landed in the emergency room on December 13, 2011, and continued his stay at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton.

As an accident victim, he lost both legs. He was in critical care for two months and was not expected to live. Jerry admits that he was unconscious in the ambulance and in the emergency room before surgery. Later, he was told he “died” once in the ambulance and several more times in the hospital.

His father, Ron Johnson, says that he went more than 36 hours without pain medication because they couldn’t give it to him because of other medications he had to take to save his life. Jerry says that Blake staff members call him their “miracle.”

He came to HealthSouth to get as strong as possible, deal with psychological issues and learn to do as much as possible for himself as he can. Before he can leave, Jerry will visit the mock-up of the bedroom and kitchen to show staff he can get in bed and out, cook a meal and clean up.

“Things that were a challenge a week ago,” Jerry says, “are not a challenge this week. But, what used to take me 10 minutes before, might take hours now. I have to restructure everything in my life.”

He believes that HealthSouth has helped him to start a new life. He also has seen how people have reached out to him and to his family and this has built a desire in him to give back.

“No matter what happens,” Jerry told me, measuring his words carefully, “it’s going to take more than this to make me stop. You have to keep your head up and keep fighting for what you want and need.” This determination flows rampant in this hospital.

Diane Tolan is amazed she can walk now. Every day she gets a little stronger, and she struggles to do a little more. When I interviewed her, she told me she was nervous about going home in the next few days.

She is still puzzled by how she came to this end, when before she was so healthy. One day at work, she had a “stitch” in her side, she said. Nothing major, but then her she collapsed, she said. 

In the hospital, they determined it must be her gallbladder. All systems failed and Diane still has no remembrance of what happened next. People came to visit, and she does not remember.

Diane said she was brought to HealthSouth and said she “felt sorry for herself” and at first was resistant to the treatment. Staff helped her get to the point where she started working out.

“Sometime you need someone to tell you to get off your ass and out of that chair!” Diane said, as she was bicycling in the gym. “I finally stopped dreading coming down here.”

Her advice to others is the same. “You have to want it.”

Lakisha Jones is really glad she had her knee rebuilt, so she can get on with her life. A young woman of 26, Lakisha has been battling rheumatoid arthritis for years. As a lead merchandiser at Macy’s Department Store here, it was hard for her to work.

It was a three-year understanding of her condition that allowed her doctors to set her on the road to recovery. Though rare, women from 16 to 40 years can suffer with this disease.

By the time, she had her knee replacement surgery, she was “bone-on-bone.” Her goal is to one day be a district merchandiser at Macy’s, a store she loves. When asked what she was going to do when she left HealthSouth, there was no hesitation: “I’m going shopping and walking in the mall!”

Jerry’s goal is unique. He says he wants to roller skate again, so he can teach his two daughters to roller skate. His family owned a roller skating rink when he was young and he has always skated. A big goal, but this is a big man.

“I fought to make it for my family,” Jerry says with tears in his eyes, but a strong determination that is an inspiration. “It makes you think about what you can accomplish for love and family.”

Source: Taken from DOCTORS Magazine, Story by Lia Martin

Becoming a Patient

Our hospital provides care for those who are ready to be discharged from a hospital but not ready to return home. Treatment and care is designed to bridge the gap between hospital and home. Anyone who is limited functionally from an injury or illness can benefit from rehabilitation.

Learn More »

Get in Touch with Us

Contact us to learn more about our rehabilitation programs or to set up a tour at our hospital.

Learn more »