In October 1974, I was studying for my doctoral oral exams in neuropsychology when I received fateful news: my 12-year-old son had been hit by a car and was being rushed to the emergency room with head trauma. In spite of doctors’ best efforts to stabilize him, his injury was too severe and he died several hours later.
At that time, medical professionals considered brain injuries difficult to treat. With the passing of my son, however, I committed myself to help improve the success of brain injury rehabilitation. I completed my doctoral training in neuropsychology and began conducting research in that field. In 1980, during a conversation with Dr. Dan Morrison, a physician specializing in rehabilitation, I learned that new technological advancements were allowing neuropsychologists to analyze the brain in ways never before possible.
Dr. Morrison and I collaborated to learn how to use the upcoming knowledge of brain functions in order to improve outcomes. We were aided by research from Dr. Roger Sperry, the 1981 Nobel Prize winner in medicine for split brain research. Dr. Sperry, a neuropsychologist, provided greater insight into how people think, reason, remember, and make decisions.1 Armed with this newfound information, Dr. Morrison and I launched an inpatient brain injury rehabilitation program at Del Oro Hospital in Houston.
The program adopted a team-centered approach with professionals from traditional medical disciplines including physical medicine and rehabilitation; nursing; social work; and physical, occupational, speech and language therapies. But while we were realizing successful outcomes, I felt there was a void in outpatient therapy. I helped launch an outpatient program that mirrored the Del Oro inpatient model in which all disciplines were represented, but soon noticed something was still lacking; although patients did improve further in the clinic setting, they seemed to struggle in other environments.
After trial and error, the clinic adjusted its outpatient activities, honing them to the proven approach still utilized today. The hallmark of this approach is creating an environment unique to each individual’s ability level and tolerance of distractions. As patients progress, therapists introduce greater complexity into the treatments while reducing structure—a model that helps assimilate individuals to the outside world.
For more than 30 years, Pate Rehabilitation has been dedicated to continually improving brain injury rehabilitation to enable patients to thrive in the real world. With an emotional tie and deep interest, it is Pate’s mission to ensure the best treatment and most successful outcomes possible for persons with acquired brain injuries.
Mary Ellen Hayden Ph.D., ABPP
Sperry R. “Some Effects of Disconnecting the Cerebral Hemispheres,” Nobel Lecture, Karolinska Institutet, Dec. 8 1981; “Roger W. Sperry – Autobiography,” Nobelprize.org, Oct. 17, 2011, http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1981/sperry.html.