Rehabilitation can restore stroke victims

Beit Loewenstein in Ra'anana takes care of some of the most difficult cases of stroke in Israel.

beit loewenstein 88 (photo credit: )
beit loewenstein 88
(photo credit: )
When the neurosurgeons and neurologists have done all they can for acute stroke patients, specialists in rehabilitation units take over. Many patients can improve and enjoy a better quality of life, and few of them say they would prefer to have died, says Prof. Ya'acov Hart, director-general of Beit Loewenstein, a 300-bed rehabilitation hospital in Ra'anana. Hart told The Jerusalem Post that he couldn't speak about Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's case, as he did not have his medical file. "But I have full faith in the doctors and other medical staffers at Hadassah-University Medical Center. They are doing all they can," he said. "I believe in their abilities, and I wish them success. I know Dr. Jose Cohen, the neurosurgeon who headed Sharon's operating team; he is super-excellent. After they finish treating the prime minister, and if he needs care at our hospital, then we can talk. "We receive the most difficult cases from around the country, and we are the most comprehensive and largest facility, but there are rehabilitation units for stroke victims, including at Hadassah itself, on Mount Scopus." Beit Loewenstein is currently treating some 100 stroke patients. "Every one undergoes seven or eight hours of examination with each expert - occupational and physiotherapists, communications specialists, psychologists, social workers and others, depending on need," Hart said. "If a patient suffers only motor disability, meaning difficulty in moving parts of his body, the treatment is medical, nursing and physiotherapy. If he has difficulty speaking, we have clinical communications specialists who treat aphasia. If there are also cognitive problems, we have experts, including occupational and art therapists and others. Many years ago, we developed the Loewenstein Occupational Therapy Cognitive Assessment [LOTCA] test that is used worldwide." Many of the stroke patients currently being treated arrived in "hopeless condition," but they were rehabilitated. "In recent years, most patients return to the community rather than long-term hospitalization in a nursing institution. Younger people can, in many cases, even return to work and have a creative life, but older people, too, can benefit," Hart said. He noted that a person who suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke like Sharon's has been treated for months and is "now writing a book." The average stroke victim is hospitalized for two months, but some need inpatient care for as long as half a year, with the cost covered by the health funds. If the dominant hemisphere of the brain was damaged, the treatment is the same, but it must be more intensive than if the less-dominant hemisphere was harmed, he added. Still, there are patients who suffer severe disabilities even after therapy. "Some suffer from depression, and for this they receive talk therapy and medications when needed," Hart said. "But I can say that the vast majority, whatever their disability, want to live. Very, very few say they would prefer to die. And after getting rehabilitation, even fewer say this."