January 23, 2014

Rehab efforts help patient regain steps, golf stroke

When Doug Reinhard arrived at Vanderbilt in September 2012 he was in a wheelchair, couldn’t feel his feet and definitely could not swing a golf club.

Doug Reinhard works on coordination drills with physical therapist Chrissy Durrough at the Pi Beta Phi Rehabilitation Institute. (photo by John Russell)

When Doug Reinhard arrived at Vanderbilt in September 2012 he was in a wheelchair, couldn’t feel his feet and definitely could not swing a golf club.

Reinhard has a degenerative disk disease — spinal stenosis — and has had multiple surgeries, an infection in his back and a neurologic impairment due to development of an epidural abscess that caused him significant weakness in his legs due to pressure on the spinal cord.

“Epidural abscesses can be extremely painful. If not diagnosed and treated effectively, he could have become permanently paralyzed, ” said his physician, Thomas Groomes, M.D., interim medical director of Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital. “His admission exam showed that he had the potential to improve but was likely to have some lifelong impairment.”

The motivated patient incorporated a number of services in his rehabilitation process, including the Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital for inpatient rehab, Pi Beta Phi Rehabilitation Institute (PBPRI) for intensive outpatient rehab, the Dayani Center for pool exercises and the Vanderbilt Orthopaedic Institute for his lower back pain.

PBPRI staff physical therapist 3 Lisa Haack, and her resident at the time, Chrissy Durrough, asked Reinhard early in the process to list his goals for therapy.

“I said I want to travel for work and pleasure, and play golf again,” he said. “And obviously walking. Those are the things I wanted, to go back to my work and travel. I think, in their own minds, they weren’t sure I could accomplish that.”

But a major recovery setback in May 2012 while traveling with his wife, Judymac, to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, put those goals on hold and almost cost him his life.

“When we got down there we went into town to buy our grandkids’ T-shirts,” he recalls. “I said I was feeling light headed. I went to sit down and went straight to the ground and was gone.”

Judymac started CPR and an ICU nurse who happened to be in the area assisted as they took Reinhard to the ER in Moab with two clots that had passed through his heart and landed in each artery of his lungs. He was airlifted to Grand Junction, Colo., where a catheter was placed into the arteries of his lungs to suck out the clots and a vena cava filter was placed to protect against any further clots moving from his lower extremities to his heart.

“Most of the time people with this type of experience don’t get to talk about it afterward,” said Reinhard, who sons are 43 and 39, and grandsons are 13 and 9.

An intense rehabilitation program has helped spinal stenosis patient Doug Reinhard, shown here working with physical therapist Lisa Haack, recover to the point that he is once again able to play golf. (photo by John Russell)

Reinhard, who is employed by Dialysis Clinic Inc. as a corporate administrator, completed his 15 months of physical therapy this month, and recently helped a team of work colleagues place first in a golf tournament during the company’s annual meeting in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“Mr. Reinhard needed the skill of an orthopedic therapist to address the orthopaedic needs from his initial surgery so that he was not hindered with his neurologic recovery,” said Haack, his physical therapist. “As soon as we combined forces as one team the patient’s recovery improved exponentially.

“Over the last year he progressed to walking independently with a regular rolling walker, to a four-wheeled rolling walker with seat, to a single point cane to now requiring no assistive device. He has returned to golfing and working full time, including traveling for his job. He is truly a medical miracle.”

Reinhard said the rehab might have even fixed his slice on the golf course.

“I am just thrilled to be able to get out there, I don’t care what I shoot anymore,” he said. “We played two rounds of 18 holes. I didn’t hit it quite as far but I hit it straighter. It has been a long 15 months, but I can’t ask for a better result, and it’s because of all of those people at Stallworth and Pi Beta Phi who worked with me and also the support of my family — without them I couldn’t have done any of this. It is as good as it can be and I know it can just get better from this point.”

“My family is happy to see me up and around now and I have a 13-year-old grandson waiting to play some golf with his papa,” Reinhard said.