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Thread: Anyone have first hand knowledge of TIRR in Houston as a rehabilitation center?

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Chicago suburbs

    Anyone have first hand knowledge of TIRR in Houston as a rehabilitation center?

    Hi once again.

    We are considering TIRR (Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research) as a rehabilitation facility for Todd. He is now 32 and has a C5 SCI which occurred in a surfing accident in Maui on Jan. 8,2002. He still is in ICU, and we believe we are soon to get him set up in a rehabilitation facility. We now know, that TIRR is covered by Medicaid. The biggest negative to TIRR is that family and friends are in Dallas (6 hrs. away). We were considering Baylor Rehab in Dallas, but have been told Medicaid won't cover this facility. Which makes us upset. Makes no sense at all. Has anyone else been told they cannot receive in-patient care at Baylor Rehab if on Medicaid? The admissions person told me that they are a "free-standing" building, and therefore Medicaid doesn't recognize them as a covered rehab site. Is this really the truth? Any feedback on this will really be helpful as well.

    So, please send us any first hand experience at TIRR in Houston. We have heard good things and know it is a Model SCI Center.

    As always, thank you so much for your unending support and help.


  2. #2

    Why don't you give Kent Waldrep a call. He is in Dallas and has very good connections of UTSouthwestern. He also of course knows TIRR very well because he went there for his care and helped them organize their Mission Connect.

    Mr. Kent Waldrep
    National Paralysis Foundation
    14651 Dallas Pkwy, Suite 136
    Dallas, TX 75240 USA

    office: 972-248-7100


  3. #3
    you will probably find that there are no shortage of opinions on TIRR. I was there for approximately six months a little over three years ago. I believe the doctors (Dr. Donovan and Dr. Parsons) are very well-respected and very knowledgeable. They are also very very very conservative! These two doctors alone are the reason that the facility is rated so highly. The actual hospital care is mediocre at best. They seem to always have a shortage of nurses and experienced staff members. A good majority of the staff is agency and contract which means they do not have a lot of experience with spinal cord injury. The only thing this means is that you do not need to be afraid to voice your opinion.

    The most important part is the physical therapy and occupational therapy. First, don't expect anyone to do any thing cure related. Their philosophy seems to be: we will teach you how to live the rest of your life in a wheelchair. And I am of the opinion, as with any hospital that therapy is only as good as the therapist. TIRR is no different that they have some who are better than others, so don't be afraid to be critical. It has been 3 for four months since I was down there for a checkup, and most of the therapist that were there three years ago are not there now. I think they do a good job of teaching you how to take care of daily needs.

    I think the best thing that you have done, is find this website. I have learned more from the people around here and Dr. Young and the spinal cord nurses than any rehabilitation hospital could teach you. No matter what facility you end up at, just keep coming here and ask questions if you think they are not doing what they are supposed to.

  4. #4


    Given the two, TIRR has the better reputation. I am in agreement with Dr. Young, my first call would be to Kent Waldrop if I was in your area. Ask him to connect you to Dianne Aaron from the Steve Palaero Chapter of KW. Diane is a great person to talk to, listens well and may be that hand on your shoulder that you need right now.
    Best of luck

  5. #5
    Senior Member Rick1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Carlsbad, CA
    Jan -

    I did some time at TIRR about five years ago, and I agree with Carl's overall assessment. My advice: Be informed, and be pro-active in all aspects of therapy. This will be the foundation for future achievements.

    I mentioned Texas Rehabilitation Commission (TRC) in a previous response. If Todd is eligible for their services, they will help pay for rehab and equipment. They can be a real asset.

    By the way, TIRR has the best food in the Med Center. No kidding.

    Let us know what you decide. If it's TIRR, I'll come visit.

  6. #6
    Senior Member martha's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Texas hallelujah!


    My husband was at TIRR for 2 months last year. I agree pretty much with what has been said here. They were short of staff and many of the PCA's were agency. Some were downright horrible. A couple were excellent. I think the difference in my husband's care was that I was there basically 18 hours a day to be his advocate. I can be "assertive" when necessary and it was necessary A LOT at TIRR.

    My biggest complaint with Dr. Donovan is lack of follow-up. His nurse is either overworked or very forgetful and you can't get to him except through her. We're still waiting for a call back from last September on how to treat a pressure sore (she was going to ask the Dr if we needed to come in but obviously through help on this board we got it handled alone). Getting refills on prescriptions takes at least 4 days as they only rx one month at a time and the call backs to the pharmacy are that slow.

    Another complaint is that they do not offer any psychological help for the patient or family unless you insist on it. In my humble opinion, that should be one of the first things offered. Learning to deal with this life is difficult for the patient and the family.

    Kent Waldrep is fantastic. Right after my husband came home and was having terrible bowel problems, (no response to calls from Dr. Donovan), I got in touch with Alan Stokes, Kent's assistant and then he put us in touch with Kent. Both spoke with my husband at length and were incredibly helpful and encouraging. I never assumed you could get someone like that on the phone so easily!

    I have also heard great things about the rehab facility in Lubbock. They also use FES equipment which TIRR doesn't. (As Dr. Donovan told me -- he doesn't want to give false hope to patients who see their muscles moving and think they're getting some recovery)

    But finally, Carl is right -- TIRR has the best food in the Houston Medical Center and we've been in virtually every hospital there.

    The best source of information is this forum. Dr. Young, the spinal nurses and the wonderful posters here have taught us more than any hospital or rehab program could. The wealth of information here is overwhelming. I believe there is nothing that you can post or ask that someone hasn't already been through and is willing to help you with.

    Good luck!


  7. #7
    Senior Member glomae's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001


    i was at TIRR a yr and a half ago and let me say they are considered one of the best. my dr is dr parsons and he can be an arrogant asshole. he does'nt hold much hope for cure and when i tried to get some fed back about dr kao and dr cheng he refuse to discuss the matter. TIRR is all about physical therpy and not recovery and that pissed me off often. but when all is said and done you will have to do your own research and find out how a rehab best suits your needs. and yes they do have the best food!

  8. #8


    I was at TIRR for about 3 months. They have gone downhill since they received the number 3 rating in the US. If my family had not been with me the majority of the time I would have received little attention. They are extremely short staffed. They have great techs but not enough of them. They only focus on rehab, I saw no research going on. I also had a horrible, life threatning, experience with one of the top doctors there.

    Find someplace else to go.


  9. #9

    Some thoughts on evaluating rehab centers

    I know I'm probably going to get slammed for this, but here goes.

    There's lots of comments about rehab centers not being interested in cure/research. I think we have to remember that these ARE 'rehabilitation' centers, and not 'research' centers. Their primary focus is to rehabilitate folks to the point where they can function in the day-to-day life when they leave.

    We all want our rehab docs to be excited and knowledgeable about new research, trials, etc., but the truth is, I think they're so swamped with the enormity of 'rehabbing' that they literally don't have the time. My son's rehab doc at Kessler was one of 4 physicians on staff to take care of (I believe) about 80+ patients). that's 20 patients per doc, plus covering for other docs when they were out. Her duties included not only the physical care and rehab of SCI patients, but also stroke, ALS, amputees, and orthopedic patients of all ages, as well as the accompanying medical problems. She also sees former patients on an outpatient basis, and is involved in the teaching program at the local medical university. I saw my son's doc working well into the evenings, and weekends when she wasn't on call. I saw her laugh, and cry, and become so frustrated with a situation she had to go off by herself for a while, to cool down.

    I'm sure there are 'doc in the box' rehab docs out there, also; but the point I want to make is that most of these docs are so busy managing medical/rehab issues, there's just no time in their day for research/cure.

    I think it's wrong to judge a 'rehabilitation' facility on whether or not they do 'research'. Apples and oranges.

    The other issues re care at rehab facilities are valid; short staff, not enough psych support, etc.

    I've said my piece; have at it, guys!

    Tough times don't last - tough people do.

  10. #10

    Not a slam but...


    I would agree with your statement if it weren't for the fact that TIRR stands for, "Texas Institute Rehabilitation and Research." I think they should drop the last "R."


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