One Step at a Time

Allison
Eatough
Specialized Transition Program Paves the Way for Recovery and Independence

Ritchie JacobRiding a bicycle comes as second nature to most 15-year-old boys. But for Richie Jacob, it was a major milestone. Three months earlier, Richie couldn't walk. He could barely talk. Doctors gave him a 50 percent chance of survival.

On February 4, Richie was involved in a serious car accident. He suffered from life-threatening injuries including brain swelling; a fractured skull, nose, and jaw; collapsed lung; and broken ribs. He remained in a coma for two and a half weeks, leaving his family and friends in shock.

Miraculously, Richie beat the odds and emerged from his coma. He began his rehabilitation at Kernan Hospital, but the Kernan staff suggested Richie's family contact the Specialized Transition Program (STP) at Kennedy Krieger Institute a comprehensive rehabilitation day hospital that strives to transition children and teens who are undergoing neurorehabilitation services back into their home, community and school lives.

Established in 1995, the program treats patients who no longer need around-the-clock medical observation but who still require care that makes full integration into a community possible. Most patients come to the center five days a week for four to six weeks. "Our goal for all kids is to get them reintegrated into the most appropriate community setting," says Joan Carney, Director of the STP. As a result of the car accident, Richie had trouble processing information and multi-tasking. He also had trouble finding the right words to describe his emotions.

Richie's days at STP included physical therapy to increase his motor skills, occupational therapy to improve his ability to work in a group and follow directions, and speech therapy and classroom time to evaluate how much education he had retained. STP staff often work with a student's home school system to determine the best course of action. In Richie's case, the Anne Arundel County school system approved STP as a transitional school placement for Richie and arranged daily transportation.

"We focus heavily on educational reintegration," Carney says. "We have our own teachers and a devoted staff who talk with parents and schools every step of the way." It's that dedication and day-to-day contact that distinguishes STP from other rehabilitation programs, says Jane Whitcomb, Richie's mother. "I have nothing but good things to say about the program. They really keep in touch with parents, and they seem genuinely concerned about their patients." Richie made tremendous progress throughout his time at STP. Along with riding a bike again, Richie has regained his sense of humor and is looking forward to getting back to his daily routines. "Richie's made a lot of progress," says his mother. "He's a miracle boy."