Helping Patients Emerge From Coma

November 25, 2014

I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and highlight a particular program that we have here at Helen Hayes Hospital that is very close to my heart. My name is Shana McGann and I am a Certified Brain Injury Specialist (ACBIS) and the Lead Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) for all inpatient programs here at HHH. I most often work on the Traumatic Brain Injury Unit.

Despite having been a SLP for almost 10 years in California, I had never heard of a Neuro-Recovery (Coma) Program, the JFK Coma Recovery Scale or coma stimulation, until I came to work at Helen Hayes Hospital in 2006. I have since discovered and now utilize this outstanding treatment tool that was initiated in 1993 and improved upon periodically. I’m proud to say that HHH is the only hospital in the region that implements the Scale.

The HHH Neuro-Recovery (Coma) program was established in order to help people emerge from a coma, but also to prevent any secondary complications that would be the result of a long time spent in bed. It takes a large team working closely together to tackle these goals, especially when most people in neuro-recovery have at least some difficulty breathing, moving, swallowing and/or talking.

My experience in acute care with neuro-recovery patients was so much different than this focused, interdisciplinary team approach that addresses so many issues that might arise. Our interdisciplinary team here at Helen Hayes Hospital works very closely together to ensure pulmonary health – with the goal of a patient being able to breath on their own, ensure the prevention of skin breakdown and/or issues, prevent muscle contractures and ensure adequate nutrition and hydration.

In addition, to accomplish this, the medical and therapy team is also focusing on ways to increase these patients’ responses to a variety of stimulation and to facilitate movement, communication and cognition. We need all of these skills to do the things that you and I do every day and don’t even think about…sitting in a chair, reaching for a drink, bathing, getting dressed, eating a steak, going to the park, cheering for your favorite team or helping your child or grandchild do their homework.

The Helen Hayes Hospital Neuro-Recovery Program is the best way to keep your loved one as safe and as healthy as possible while providing intervention that may help them to be able to participate in active rehabilitation. It has been a privilege to be a part of this team and watch someone who was not able to move, breathe or talk on their own leave this hospital doing all three of those things. I have been grateful for this opportunity and for my team that is headed by our neurologist, Dr. Glenn Seliger, assisted by our Nurse Practitioner, Vivian Breslin, who work in conjunction with physical therapy, occupational therapy, recreational therapy, respiratory therapy, rehabilitation nursing, psychiatry, neuropsychology, Center for Rehabilitation Technology, prosthetics and orthotics and ancillary medical specialties.

-Shana McGann, M.S./C.C.C.-S.L.P.

For more information about Traumatic Brain Injury Services at HHH, including the Neuro-Recovery Program: