Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital Unveils One-of-a-Kind Patient Therapy Car Donated

Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital recently unveiled a unique patient transfer vehicle specially made locally, and donated for use with patients in therapy. The new therapy car allows therapists at Sunnyview to help patients relearn and practice the critical skill of independently entering and exiting a vehicle.

Frank and Sons Body Works of Scotia built and donated the car. Sons Todd and Scott Plemenik, who are vice presidents of the business, supported the project, while crew member John Korniak worked for weeks on the one-of-a kind effort to transform the empty cab of a wrecked truck, and customize it with unique features. The cab of the truck was donated by the LKQ Corporation of Stuyvesant.

Two key features of the vehicle are: six-way adjustable power seats, and an adjustable lift. Installed by Korniak, these features enable the therapy car to be configured to simulate the size and feel of different vehicles. This means the therapy car can be personalized to an individual patient’s own vehicle, whether it is a sedan, an SUV, a pickup truck, or something in-between.

“Patients undergo therapy at the vehicle transfer station from the first days of the rehabilitation process at Sunnyview through the time that they are ready to be discharged home,” said Patricia Valenza, PT, DPT, ATP, assistant director of the Neuro-Rehab Institute at Sunnyview. “This new patient transfer vehicle enables our patients to practice how to safely get in and out of a car like their own, making the practice similar to what they will do in real life. This allows us to work with them so that they don’t further their injuries, and so that they can resume many of their daily activities when they return home.”

The vision of a new patient transfer vehicle was first conceived when Terry Phillips of Glenville underwent his rehabilitation at Sunnyview after having hip replacement surgery in October 2012. As part of his therapy, Phillips worked with a physical therapist on his hip restrictions, using the old patient transfer vehicle at the hospital that was nearly two decades old. In talking with his therapist, an idea was born on a new improved version of the car that would have movable seats, and be capable of adjustments individual to the patient, and the kind of vehicle each patient normally drives.

Phillips personally made a $500 donation to the Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation toward a replacement car for the hospital, and secured a match from General Electric. But it was nearly two years later in January 2014 – when Phillips’ wife Anne became a patient at Sunnyview after receiving back surgery and used the same vehicle for therapy – that Phillips fueled his efforts to help further a replacement. He contacted a friend, enlisting Sean McCullough – a member of the Rotary Club of Glenville, and a project engineer – to research a lift system needed to raise and lower the truck cab.

Phillips, a past district governor for Rotary District 7190 and member of the Rotary Club of Scotia, also reached out to his many Rotary contacts for the fundraising. He secured commitments for support from several Rotary clubs of Schenectady – including the Rotary clubs of Glenville, Niskayuna, Rotterdam Sunrise, Schenectady, Schenectady East, and Scotia. Additionally, the Rotary District 7190, which serves nine counties in the Capital Region, also provided support; along with Sue Austin, another past district governor.

“While a patient at Sunnyview, I saw a need for a car simulator that mirrored my car at home,” said Phillips. “Since Sunnyview took excellent care of me, I wanted to involve area Rotary clubs to help future patients have an even better experience.”

“We are extremely grateful to Terry and all those who had a role in making this day a reality,” said Edward “Chip” Eisenman, chief executive officer of Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital. “Our mission has always been to provide the best possible care for our patients throughout their rehabilitation, so it is gratifying that this great gift of heart stemmed from one of our patients wanting to give back. This car will help so many current and future patients in the recovery process get back on the road safely.

“Thank you to all the individuals, businesses, and Rotary representatives past and present, for all their contributions in helping to take this vehicle from vision to reality. Today would not have been possible without your time, your efforts, and your generosity,” said Eisenman.


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