Rehab nurse treats physical, mental health and helps patients forge ahead

Nurses Week 2019

This week is a special week on the Medical Watch WGN News is honoring the unsung heroes of medicine — nurses. From cancer treatment to rehab, we tackle memory care and end of life.  

As Nurses Week continues, Dina Bair explores a specialty that requires unique training in multiple areas. Rehab nurses treat patients after a stroke, an accident, a gunshot wound or amputation from injury or diseases like diabetes. All the while they are treating a patient’s mental health. They keep forging ahead so patients can look forward to going home. 

When an acute ailment is resolved, such as a stroke, some patients are left with problems that don’t require hospitalization but do need medical care. That’s where rehab comes in.

Isaly Maisonet is an RN at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital.

“You learn all different types of patient populations, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, stroke, amputees,” Maisonet said. “And so you learn to deal with all different types of rehab.”

Patient James had a devastating fall. With occupational therapy he’s learning everyday tasks anew, all the while nursing his neck.

“He’ll be able to eat and we’re celebrating that like, ‘Yes! You can have food!’” Maisonet said. “That kind of stuff, but we celebrate the small stuff, we celebrate the big stuff along the way.”

Patient Michellese wants to finish a marathon. The mom of a 4-year-old suffered a stroke and desperately wants to get home to her little girl. But when she arrived at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital, she couldn’t lift her arm to hold her baby and couldn’t stand to even walk with her.

“Watching them go from that to seeing them be able to walk on their own again or even the smallest thing, be able to feed themselves, that’s one of my favorite parts about being a rehab nurse,” Maisonet said. “I see the patient come in, sometimes feeling discouraged, maybe a little frustrated, hurt, or maybe just not even sure what’s going on at this point. They’re just coming out of being unconscious for a while. I realize how fortunate I am when I see them celebrating or making the smallest gains, and it’s so meaningful the things that we take for granted.”

She knows hard work, determination in physical therapy and adherence to medication are all key. And that's why she adds education to her daily tasks. And the last ingredient for good care, the heart that offers so much hope.

“There are times I’m tired. There are times I come here, and my patients are my motivation,” she said.

On most days, the troubles for patients are too many to count. But for Maisonet, the rewards are even greater.

“Sometimes when they first come to us, they don’t even want to talk, it’s like, ‘I just wanna go home,’” she said. “And I do my best to reassure them that, ‘You know what? You’re in the right place at the right time, and you’re almost home.’”

Maisonet has called Schwab her home away from home for 11 years. And she said helping her patients make it home gives her the greatest happiness.

But what about patients who come home — because it is the last place for them? Friday, WGN News will follow a hospice nurse as she offers the greatest chance for peace and dignity to dying patients and their struggling families.

More on WGN's coverage of Nurses Week 2019

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