Intermountain Celebrates Return Of Hospital Rehab Volunteers
Jun 7, 2021, 6:10 PM | Updated: 8:24 pm
MURRAY, Utah – During the pandemic, volunteers at Intermountain Healthcare were not allowed in the building for face-to-face sessions, so they got creative with virtual sessions. But there was a celebration Monday as peer-support group volunteers returned to the hospital.
It was a celebration of the return of volunteers to the hospital, but also the celebration of three years of success for a peer-support program.
RAMMP, or Rehab Advocates Mindset Mentorship Program, connects patients who have had a serious medical setback with those who know what they’re going through.
“It’s just about people helping people,” said Bonnie Larsen, an occupational therapist and founder of the program at Intermountain Healthcare.
In the unique peer mentoring program, former patients from the Neuro-Specialty Rehabilitation Unit at Intermountain Medical Center help current patients overcome barriers.
“So, they have that empathy and understanding that we don’t have as healthcare providers,” said Larsen.
Larsen started RAMMP in 2018. As an occupational therapist, she was already introducing past patients to current patients, and realizing that the resulting relationships were extremely beneficial for both, but especially the current patients.
“Seeing that hope of possibility that, ‘Hey, this person is doing and living their life independently,’ or, just in a different mindset, feeling happy,” Larsen said.
The peer volunteers help patients in Rehab cope with their new lifestyles after a spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, amputation or paralysis.
“They weren’t sure how their life was going to be,” said Larsen. “But once they saw it, they really were able to push forward.”
As part of the “RAMMP It Up” celebration, former spinal injury patients and current mentors, Gared Dore and Sarah Child, performed a dance they created to share the possibilities for artistry.
Dore uses a wheelchair and is paralyzed from the chest down after suffering a spinal cord injury 12 years ago in a car crash.
Child was an avid dancer before a paragliding incident left her with a spinal cord injury. She has movement and sensation in most of her legs, but she can’t feel her left leg from the knee down.
“Having to learn how to be creative with the body that I now have,” Child said.
The two innovated dancing together.
Larsen was Child’s occupational therapist. When Larsen launched the program, she asked Child to be one of the original mentors for the program.
After 15 months of virtual sessions, they can now go back to one-on-one coaching and counseling with inpatients.
“I can take my injury and take these experiences that I’ve gone through and help lead somebody through the darkness, so they can see that it’s not the end,” said Child.
Her dance partner, Dore, knew that darkness.
“When I was put in this wheelchair, all of my confidence was just thrown out the window,” he said.
After he adapted to his new reality, he realized he could help others and enrich his own life at the same time.
“They’ll know, ‘Hey, he’s done it, why can’t I?’ It’s only impossible because it hasn’t been done before, and once the mind sees that someone else has done it, it becomes possible,” said Dore.
During the first year of RAMMP, the program had 14 rehab advocates, all volunteers. In 2021, it expanded to 30.
Volunteers in other areas of the hospital will be allowed to return in phases as well.