Lisa Lange, PT, fell in love with physical therapy as a Candy Striper at West Jersey Hospital in Voorhees (now Virtua.). “I just loved to see people walk for the first time again,” she said.
Since Hahnemann University was ranked in the top 10 for physical therapy programs, she applied there for graduate school. Her clinical rotations sparked her interest in traumatic brain injury (TBI.) “Brain injury rehab as an entity was in its infancy in 1987,” she said. During a rotation at Cooper University Hospital she had an opportunity to observe a pediatric facility, Mediplex Rehab for children, at which time she became fascinated with brain injury and emergence from coma. “I did a lot of reading and research.”
“I saw my first child in a coma, and I saw patients emerging from coma. A child could be unresponsive one day and because of the neuroplasticity of the brain, two days later may be up and walking.”
“Next I had a rotation at Our Lady of Lourdes for acute rehabilitation. I was able to work with young adults with TBI and began more hands-on experience. My last clinical rotation was at Children’s Hospital in Washington D.C. where I also was able to work with children with TBI and other neurological impairments. One summer while I was in graduate school, I worked for the ARC as a habilitation aide for adults with developmental disabilities. I was able to work in a group home environment and be directly involved in day to day activities including ADLs, shopping and recreation and I loved it!” She has worked with patients with neurological involvement, primarily brain injury, her entire career.
Therapist, Teacher and Mentor
“I started at Bacharach on June 17, 1987. Patrick Mazzillo in Accounting was in my orientation class. The first six months, I was on a general rotation, and developed the amputee program. I had the opportunity to work on the brain injury team and have been there ever since. I am now the co-coordinator of the program with Brett Gottman, OT.
“Since that time, I have mentored students, staff and other therapists. I have taught locally, regionally, and nationally on brain injury and in the area of clinical education. I was responsible for the clinical education program and staff development for 19 years. I have been adjunct faculty at ACC and Rutgers University (for annual lectures.) I love teaching to people who want to learn. On April 17, 1999, I received the James Tucker Award for Excellence in Clinical Practice and Teaching from the APTA of NJ. I was honored to be the recipient.”
“Working with patients with brain injury is a challenge. The physical (therapy) part is easy. It is the cognitive and behavioral aspects that are the challenge and make it multiply complex.”
“You could have ten young patients with frontal lobe injuries after motor vehicle accidents and each one would present differently. This makes it interesting.”
Why is Your Job So Rewarding?
“Oh my gosh – knowing that I make a difference! I love my job! I love taking care of patients, especially when they come back to visit. I have patients visit all the time. I recently had a patient from 33 years ago who was one of my first patients with stroke after childbirth. At that time, I knew nothing about childcare, but knew that I needed to simulate functional activities with her. Collaboratively with OT, we weighted a Cabbage Patch doll and practiced tasks and eventually, her baby was incorporated in our session. Her baby is now in her 30’s and has two children of her own!”
“You can’t work on goals without creating a bond with your patient. They have to know you are a team. Like when I have a 17-year-old who wants to g back to surfing or snowboarding. I may not be well-versed in those activities; however, I am creative in designing treatment programs centered around my patient.”
“Helping patients with brain injury is so rewarding to me. I have made a difference in so many people’s lives and I am grateful to be part of their recovery.”