Hillside marks milestone in physical therapy

HOWLAND – None of the physical therapists at Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital have been there as long as the hospital has – 50 years. But many who discussed the service they offer say the rewards last a lifetime.

“I think (the patients) all touch our life in one way or another,” physical therapist Michelle Marshall said. “The one thing about working here – it’s just very rewarding.”

Marshall has been a physical therapist for 20 of the hospital’s 50 years. Hillside, a 69-bed facility in Howland, is preparing to mark its 50th year in the physical therapy businesses.

Marshall, last week recalled working with a gentleman nearly 16 years ago after he had a stroke. She led him through his physical therapy for about six weeks before he left for home.

Nearly 14 years later, she said she ran into his wife at Hillside, when he came back for therapy on a different condition. Marshall said she was shocked that the man’s wife remembered her by name and said the couple still prays for her every day.

“For them to really remember touched me,” Marshall said.

Hillside, operated as part of the ValleyCare Health System of Ohio, opened in 1929 as the Trumbull County Tuberculosis Hospital, addressing what was a widespread problem at that time. But after vaccines and increased awareness led to the decline of TB, the hospital in 1963 changed its focus to physical therapy.

Today, Hillside is nationally known and accredited by the Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. The hospital is a CARF-accredited brain injury center and has the region’s first CARF-accredited stroke specialty program.

Hillside also offers specialized programs for orthopedics, spinal cord injuries and amputations and provides services for both in-patient and out-patient programs.

The facility includes two large inpatient therapy gyms, three therapy areas for activities of daily living and an outdoor sports rehabilitation area.

Marshall said that from her perspective, rehabilitation hasn’t changed as much in the last 20 years as the circumstances surrounding it.

Because patient stays are often shorter than in the past, often due to new insurance restrictions, therapists now help patients through shorter, more intensive programs.

Another change has been the amount of schooling necessary to become a physical therapist. Christine Snipes studied for seven years at Youngstown State University to earn her doctorate in physical therapy before joining the Hillside team about five years ago.

Snipes recalled working with an elderly man from California who had been in the area for his mother’s funeral when he suffered a stroke and was brought to Hillside for therapy. After five weeks of rehabilitation, he was able to walk out of the facility to his son and grandson, who had flown in to see him.

Snipes said there was a lot involved in preparing the man to be able to board a plane to return home.

The therapists said they always work to provide more than just physical care. Snipes recalled advice she received when she first came to Hillside:

“Let (the patients) know you see them as a person first, that they are more than their disability.”