UVa's ICU Patients Heal Faster

By: Whitney Holmes
By: Whitney Holmes

October 26, 2006

Patients in typical intensive care units sit around, stare at the ceiling, and don't have very much to do. These patients generally have a slow rate of recovery, but that is not the case at UVa. A program at the University of Virginia's Intensive Care Unit focuses on strengthening the mind and body to get critically ill patients, better, faster.

"Apparently a car hit me, and I really don't have much in the way of recognition of it, " recalled 73-year-old Paul Holtz.

Four weeks ago, Paul was driving home after doing some charity work at the women's prison, when a driver, asleep at the wheel, hit him head-on, breaking his neck, and puncturing his liver.

"In the very beginning it was touch and go. He was critically unstable," remembered his son, Brad.

Doctors said it would take about eight months for Paul to recover, but..."I am making progress," Paul declared.

That is because Paul is part of a unique program at the University of Virginia Medical Center's Intensive Care Unit that speeds recovery of both, the mind and body, through the use of fun activities.

Guests, such as harpists, lift spirits.

Specialists, such as Martha Bryant, increase strength.

In fact, ICU Supervisor, Dr. Robert Sawyer, says recent studies prove that Martha's work has reversed the usual deterioration seen in trauma patients.

"From the beginning of the time that Martha works with them, their strength increases. And we know from past experiences that the strength usually decreases for patients in the Intensive Care Unit. So we have been able to reverse that trend," explained Dr. Sawyer

Before the accident, Paul was walking dozens of miles a week, pumping iron at the gym, and playing with his grand kids. And with this program, he'll be back at it, not a moment too soon.

This program is the only one of it's kind in an ICU, but it has been getting a lot of attention from other hospitals that want to have something just like it.

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