Helen Ausink's Story*

Helen in a black sweatshirt, smiling and standing with female physical therapist in therapy gym

Helen Ausink and her husband loaded their children into the car for a trip to North Carolina, heading down Interstate 95 to a family reunion.

Not far from their home in Virginia, the car hydroplaned, went off the road and struck a tree. By the time ambulances arrived, Helen was unconscious and not breathing.

ER doctors discovered bruising and hemorrhages across her brain. In a coma and unable to breathe on her own, Helen was placed on a ventilator.

The former Army nurse spent 17 days in intensive care, battling pneumonia and other infections, before stabilizing. While she regained her the ability to breathe, she was still unable to eat, care for herself or follow commands. She was also agitated, confused and unable to use the left side of her body.

Her family chose Select Specialty Hospital – Hampton Roads to begin the first phase of her recovery. A physician-led team of nurses, therapists and dietitians created a plan to heal Helana’s body and mind.

Physical, occupational and speech-language therapists guided Helen through stimulating exercises aimed at reconnecting her cognitive abilities. Pharmacists routinely adjusted her medication, phasing out powerful drugs that might add to her sleepiness or confusion. As the days passed, she became more alert, actively participating in muscle-building resistance exercises.

After 12 days, Helen was thinking, moving and eating independently. She transferred to Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital, just two elevator stops down from SSH – Hampton Roads. By then, Helen’s children were regular visitors and participating in her physical and occupational therapy. Therapists challenged Helen to crawl on all fours, sit, hold and play with her year-old daughter, as well as walk behind a stroller.

After 16 more days, Helen made an astounding transformation. She was walking independently, performing self-care and felt confident taking care of her children’s needs.

She was so ready to get home, she joked, she packed up her room on her own.

Recently, Helen returned to Riverside Rehabilitation Hospital to express her appreciation for her care team.

“You have to keep a positive attitude. You have to keep moving forward. My therapists encouraged me mentally and physically. They encouraged my children’s participation, which meant a lot.”

*Patient success stories from across our hospital network.