Unique Specialist Heals Patients Faster

By: Whitney Holmes
By: Whitney Holmes

June 8, 2005

Anyone who has ever had a loved one in the hospital knows that the mind plays a big role in the healing process. The UVA Medical Center realizes this too, and has a cutting edge technique to help patients get better faster.

Martha Bryant is truly one of a kind.

She is the only ICU activities specialist in the nation. She works with patients whose health is fragile and future sometimes dim.

"She had neurological problems. They did not think she would walk again," Martha recalled of one of her patients.

But her work with such patients brightens their future.

"She gradually got better here, and went to rehab after three months," she continued. "And she's at home now and emails me about once a month."

She brightens their future because her work with her patients isn't really work, it's play.

"We've had requests for computers. We also have games," Martha explained.

Martha plays games with her patients, takes them outside, giving them something to look forward to. This helps them get stronger mentally and physically.

In fact, it's proven that Martha's work helps patients get better faster. Medical director Dr. Rob Sawyer says this is because her engagement keeps patients from getting depressed.

"If you let them sit in a room in a corner withdrawn from everything, they get depressed," he explained. "They don't want to interact, they start to realize what their situation is, and you have to have [someone to] help engaging those people and getting them better."

Doctors can treat the ICU patients immediately, but when the recovery process lingers, patients are more likely to experience complications and die. This is why getting them out of the ICU quickly is crucial.

Patient John Baker knows Martha can help him do this. "She works on strength training with my arms and legs," he said. "It’s doing these things that will help me leave the hospital soon."

Judging by Martha's track record, Mr. Baker will be out of there in no time. Martha's work has been so successful that other departments are trying to steal her away from the ICU.

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