Church leader finds salvation at Titusville Area Hospital - Titusville Herald: News

Church leader finds salvation at Titusville Area Hospital

Father Walter Packard broke his neck on Dec. 13

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Posted: Thursday, August 31, 2017 5:00 am

St. Titus Catholic Church pastor, the Rev. Walter Packard, highly recommends Titusville Area Hospital to those who are in need of extended care.

Packard said he spent almost a month, from Dec. 22-Jan. 11, at TAH where he received physical and occupational therapy after he broke his neck.

He said he was visiting a St. Titus Church parishioner on Tuesday, Dec. 13, and he still remembers the exact date when he slipped and fell on the ice while leaving the parishioner’s home.

According to Holli Wolfe, TAH director of marketing and foundation, Packard got up, thinking he felt well enough to drive home. 

He later went to Titusville Express Care, which directed him to TAH’s emergency room. 

The physician in the ER ordered neck X-rays and later a CAT scan on Packard. 

He was diagnosed with a fractured cervical spine, and was transferred to UPMC Hamot, in Erie, for surgery on his neck.   

Two days after surgery, Father Packard was transferred from UPMC Hamot to Titusville Area Hospital’s swing bed program, under the care of Brian Los, M.D.  

“As a hospitalist, I provided the medical oversight of Father Packard during his recovery at TAH,” Los said. “I was at TAH when he arrived from Hamot to greet him and assess his overall condition and pain from the transfer. During Father Packard’s stay at TAH, I frequently rounded on him in person and maintained a constant line of communication with the multidisciplinary team of nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and social workers involved in his care to ensure that he was progressing medically, and in his in-patient therapy treatments.”

According to Los, the treatment provided in the swing bed program is very individualized depending on each patient’s diagnosis, needs, and goals.  

“The swing bed program provides patients with a bridge between discharge from the acute care hospital stay [and] returning home independently,” he said. “The overall goal of the swing bed program at TAH is to strengthen patients while providing them with the tools that they need for a safe return home.”

Packard said TAH’s physical and occupational therapy departments were involved in his routine.

According to Barb Bromley, TAH swing bed coordinator, for a person to be admitted in the swing bed program, they must have physical and occupational therapy needs, and that the goal for the patient is to become self-sufficient.

Bromley said the swing bed program has patient rounding meetings once a week to assess the patient’s progress in reaching goals, as well as new opportunities for improvement and setting new goals.

The meetings include staff members from the physical and occupational therapy departments, nursing, dietary, social services, and utilization review — “these are the folks who are with insurance companies”, she added.

Bromley said Packard’s treatment started out slowly.

“It was a rather delicate surgery, and that’s the reason for the weekly meetings,” she said. “Therapies are very individualized, based on the reason for admission.”

Bromley added that the goal for the swing bed program is to work with each individual to get them back to their regular lifestyle.

“For Father Packard, it was learning to get around independently,” Bromley said. “He was in horrific pain in the beginning.”

According to Brad Rapp, director of therapy services and a physical therapist at TAH, Packard’s therapy included exercises, ranging from dumbbell weights to machines like the stationary bicycle and leg press for strengthening and “a lot of walking.”

“He was very cooperative, and did almost everything we asked to expedite his healing,” Rapp said.

Mary Peterson, certified occupational therapy assistant at TAH, said Packard had cervical precautions due to the neck injury and her work with him included transfer training — for example, getting in and out of a chair or bed, which is second nature to a healthy person, but when an injury to the neck or spine occurs, it is difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to sit or rise from a chair and get in and out of bed.

“We had to find out from Father Packard what support he had at home,” Peterson said. “And he did have good support when he got home. He was definitely motivated in his healing.”

She added that, during his treatment, “he wasn’t supposed to bend forward and he wore a cervical collar, and had a special collar for the shower.”

Packard said the cervical collar was very restrictive, and “I was not allowed to take it off.”

He said he had 12 physical therapy sessions with Oil Valley Physical Therapy, “which came only after the surgeon said it was ok.”

Packard said he was considering going to HealthSouth, in Erie, for his therapy, but Los suggested that he receive his therapy at TAH.

“There’s no need to go to Erie when Titusville Area Hospital is here,” Packard said. “There’s no need to go elsewhere. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity here.” 

Currently, Packard said he has no physical impairment or pain, and he credits TAH with his successful recovery and highly recommends Titusville’s hospital to others.

“I can’t say enough good things about the care here,” Packard said. “The individual attention a patient receives at Titusville Area Hospital is exceptional.”

He added that the size of TAH has something to do with the care patients receive.

“You are treated as if you are the only patient here,” Packard said. “I would tell anyone who needed extended care to take advantage of the swing bed unit at (TAH).”

Hill can be reached by email, at

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