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12-09-2005, 02:55 PM
Heal through serenityYounker Rehabilitation Center open house on Friday will show new amenities


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REGISTER STAFF WRITER

December 8, 2005



It may be cold and dreary outside, but it looks like springtime in the newly renovated Younker Rehabilitation Center.

The large, faux tree sprouting from the gym floor — with its vibrant green leaves that will stay lush year-round — is just one hallmark of the refurbished center at Iowa Methodist Medical Center. Younker will celebrate its grand opening Friday with a community open house.

At the core of the $3 million face-lift is a belief that the way a health-care facility looks is as important as what it does. Aesthetics work hand in hand with technology to help patients feel better.

"The basis for a healing environment is that we want to provide something that is more comfortable and less sterile," said Sherry Stewart, director of design, construction and properties for Iowa Health Des Moines. "You just don't treat their body, but their mind and soul as well."

That's the goal of every detail here — from the sage-hued carpeting, walls and draperies, which help to calm patients, to the spacious private rooms, which provide patients with a sense of control.

Younker Rehabilitation is the latest example of how hospitals and clinics have steered away from an environment that's cold, sterile and institutionalized, to embrace the idea of integrating cutting-edge medicine with a warm, homey, calm and family-friendly atmosphere. Others include the cozy, dark private rooms of the Blank Children's Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, to the photorealistic images and soothing music in the radiation treatment rooms of Mercy Therapeutic Radiology Associates in Des Moines.

Mike Lose and Tim Ascherl, who both underwent therapy at Younker prior to the changes, got an early peek at the renovations last week, taking a tour with Younker officials while workers continued to put the finishing touches on the center.

The men saw the new Younker with all private rooms and hardwood floors, which include couches that fold down for family members wanting to stay the night, and larger bathrooms and showers to accommodate wheelchairs.

Lose, a Polk County sheriff's deputy, was shot in April near Easter Lake Park when he chased down a reckless driver. Lose, who is paralyzed from the waist down, currently has physical therapy sessions three times a week.

Wheelchair-friendly

In one of the rooms, Lose easily maneuvered his wheelchair to the set of closets and drawers at the foot of the bed. (The tight space in the old rooms had made such a move a difficult task.) The closets, drawers and light switches are all at wheelchair level for easier access.

Lose and Ascherl then rolled their wheelchairs into the bathroom at the same time and remarked on the increased amount of space and ease of getting into the roll-in shower. During his stay, Lose had to wait his turn to use a shower shared by the other patients.

"The bathroom is a giant," Lose said. "They're extremely better."

"It looks good," said Ascherl, as he surveyed the spacious bathroom. Ascherl, who suffered a spinal cord injury 18 years ago during a wrestling match as a student at Drake University, had offered suggestions during the Younker renovation.

The tour included looking at a roomy laundry area, home-like bedroom and mock apartment with real beds, a full kitchen and an office-like setting to give individuals a chance to strengthen the everyday skills they'll need when they return to their homes and jobs.

The community kitchen, with a full-size stove, would also have been convenient during his time at Younker, Lose said. He said he went to the Ronald McDonald House to practice cooking on a stove because there wasn't one at Younker he could use.

Body, mind, spirit

It's also clear in other details that the refurbished Younker is focused not only on healing the body, but also the mind and spirit. One example is the exercise area, with a sign above the entry way that reads "Welcome to Younkerville."

Patients doing therapy are surrounded by what resembles a small town, with park benches, street signs and street lamps. A large faux tree sits in the center of the town, encircled by a 100-foot walking track. A treadmill, parallel bars and set of stairs will sit beneath the boughs of the tree.

"We were looking for something that was inspirational and healing," said Linda Smith, a physical therapy supervisor at Younker.

Lose said the new exercise area was an improvement over the cramped quarters he remembers.

"You'd be able to wheel through this place rather nicely."

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