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BRIAN BASHAM/TRIBUNE St. Mary's Therapy Center patient Maxine Smith, right, works on her arm strength with physical therapist Nancy Haggart.

Open house Dec. 14 for St. Mary's Therapy Center

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Just a little over a week ago, the new Therapy Center at St. Mary's Innovis Health opened its doors for the first time.

Though therapy services at St. Mary's have been available for many years, the new facility allows these services to be offered at a single site.

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"St. Mary's Regional Health Center and Innovis Health were recently integrated," noted Dr. Rob Hendrickson, manager of the new Therapy Center. "When that happened, therapy services were being offered in both places. With the integration, we were able to combine and move those services to a brand new building.

"The services that were provided at the Innovis Clinic and in the basement at the hospital, for pediatric, outpatient and transitional care, will now be provided in one location," he added.

"It's been a remarkable revolution," said Tom Thompson, president and CEO of St. Mary's Innovis Health. "In the past, we often had to use whatever space was available, which might mean that pediatric, transitional care and athletic injury treatments were delivered in the same space, which was uncomfortable for some patients."

The new Therapy Center is located on the south side of the St. Mary's campus, with its main entrance on Lincoln Avenue, along with a separate reception and waiting area -- complete with coffee bar. There is also a separate parking area to the south of the new building.

"The patients appreciate having readily accessible parking, both on the street and in the new lot," Hendrickson noted. "It's very convenient."

The entire St. Mary's Innovis Health therapy team is housed in the new center, which comes equipped with three separate gyms, one each for pediatrics, outpatient therapy and transitional care. (The existing therapy area in the hospital basement will be retained for working with patients who are still hospitalized.)

The new facility includes significantly more space than was available in the hospital and clinic -- combined.

"We've got a comprehensive therapy program here," Hendrickson noted. "We offer physical, occupational and speech therapy -- and we treat all age ranges, from pediatrics to geriatrics."

Myofascial release, lymphedema management, vestibular rehabilitation, hand rehabilitation, sports rehabilitation, wound care (acute and chronic), women's health (pre and post-natal) and bladder health services are all offered at the Therapy Center.

"We've got some highly skilled folks working in all those areas -- our first priority is patient care," Hendrickson said. "We try to get patients in as soon as possible."

In other words, their goal is to minimize the amount of time patients spend waiting to see a therapist. To achieve that goal, the Therapy Center is staffed by about 25 therapists, therapy assistants and reception staff.

And then there's the new pediatric unit. Artist Hans Gilsdorf has brought his Gilly Art to St. Mary's, designing a mural of the area, a life size tree and many details more that not only a child, but staff as well, could appreciate.

"I wanted to capture more of the area feel with the lakes, cottages, farms, rolling hills," said Gilsdorf.

One of the bigger, more elaborate aspects of the pro-ject is an interactive tree. When Gilsdorf began the concept of the project, he thought of a tree with a tire swing. From there, after listening and working with staff and what they wanted, he has designed a tree to provide the "do, touch and feel" of 13 games. Games that will teach in the therapy setting.

There will be magnetic worms to feed baby birds, opening a treasure chest to find a prize, cranking a wheel to make a butterfly flap its wings, opening a drawer to watch a gopher with a blueberry pop out.

The pediatrics room is filled with more than the mural and tree though. First, Tad will greet children at the door, welcoming them to his world.

From there, the room is filled with other physical therapy disguises. The fence around a portion of the room is actually a handrail. The little bugs on the fence serve as spots the kids will have to bend, squat and touch for therapy purposes.

"It's all custom work," said Hendrickson. "It's pretty awesome."

The patients appreciate all the effort that has been put in to the new center as well.

Detroit Lakes resident Maxine Smith is quite pleased with the new facilities. She credits the St. Mary's staff with helping her to become more independent.

"When I first started coming to Nancy (Haggart, her physical therapist), I couldn't sit up on my own," said Smith, who has multiple sclerosis which has restricted the use of her lower limbs. "Now I can dress myself and get out of bed myself -- that was quite an accomplishment."

She can also, as demonstrated at her Tuesday therapy session, transfer from her wheelchair to the therapy bed without any assistance from Haggart.

Another patient who is enjoying the benefits of the new Therapy Center is Annette Schultz of Nevis, who is currently housed in St. Mary's transitional care wing at Oak Crossing.

Though she is pleased with the comfort of her accommodations, Schultz's ultimate goal is to go home.

"I had shoulder surgery, and it's been kind of a long recuperation, so I'm trying to get stronger (through therapy)," she said. "I need to be able to go home and take care of my pets."

Hours of operation for the Therapy Center are also geared toward client service.

"We are open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Wednesday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.," Hendrickson said. They are closed on weekends, however.

Hendrickson is also very appreciative of the fact that the new facility was designed with the potential for growth built into the schematics.

"We have enough space to accommodate progressive growth," he said.

The clientele of the Therapy Center is referred there by physicians at the hospital and both local clinics.

"We work very closely with the physicians on staff at both St. Mary's Innovis Health and MeritCare," Hendrickson noted. "The physicians do the diagnosing, we do the therapy."

Though there are still some last minute touches to be added, such as pictures on the walls and accessories in the rooms, the Therapy Center at St. Mary's is fully operational. Those wanting to get a first-hand look at the facility, as well as the adjacent, recently refurbished Oak Crossing (formerly St. Mary's Nursing Center), are invited to attend a Christmas open house on Sunday, Dec. 14 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Pippi Mayfield contributed to this story.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 14 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 844-1454
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