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Former patient driven to bring rehab car to Sunnyview Hospital

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Former patient driven to bring rehab car to Sunnyview Hospital

Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital has a shiny new ride. Well, sort of.
Former patient driven to bring rehab car to Sunnyview Hospital
Patti Valenza, assistant director of the Neuro-Rehabilitation Institute at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital, shows how the cab of the new patient transfer vehicle motions up and down on a hydraulic lift on Thursday.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital has a shiny new ride. Well, sort of.

On Thursday, the hospital unveiled its new patient transfer vehicle. It will help patients “relearn and practice the critical skills of independently entering and exiting a vehicle,” according to the hospital.

The blue “car” simulator features six-way adjustable power seats and an adjustable lift, which allows patients to customize the specifications to anything from a smart car to a Dodge Ram.

The idea was spearheaded by former Sunnyview patient and GE retiree Terry Phillips, who first went there in 2009 after a right hip replacement and then again in 2012 for his left hip.

During his rehabilitation, he used a transfer vehicle that was about two decades old. With the help of his physical therapist, Beth Riley, he was able to enter and exit a vehicle despite his restrictions. But both Phillips and Riley noticed some improvements were needed.

“I had some difficulty with the vehicle because I didn’t fit very well,” said Phillips. “Beth said she really thought it would be helpful if we had a vehicle that went up and down and that had power seats that could go back and forth.”

When his wife, Anne, was sent to Sunnyview for rehabilitation of her back in 2014, she used the same vehicle simulator that Phillips did. This pushed him to give back, in a big way, to the place that helped him recover.

Phillips, a member of the Rotary Club of Scotia, used his connections with the organization to raise funds and research the project. The Rotary clubs of Glenville, Niskayuna, Rotterdam Sunrise, Schenectady, Schenectady East and Scotia came together to support the project.

“It’s been a great pleasure to work with Sunnyview,” said Phillips.

The process started in 2012, when Phillips made a $500 contribution toward the project. Todd and Scott Plemenik, along with John Korniak of Frank and Sons Body Works in Scotia, transformed the once “wrecked” truck cab into a patient transfer vehicle (donated by LKQ Corp. of Stuyvesant).

Sean McCullough, of the Rotary Club of Glenville, successfully came up with a way for the truck cab to go up and down.

“We’re fortunate that our patients are so grateful that they want to give back and become donors to support our various projects and equipment needs for the hospital,” said Patricia Valenza, assistant director of the Neuro-Rehab Institute at Sunnyview.

Sunnyview is a hospital that specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation. The only one of its kind in upstate New York, it was founded in 1928 originally to improve the lives children suffering from polio.

“I’m very pleased with the care I received on my first visit and when I came back a second time it strengthened my feelings that this hospital fulfills a great niche and does a great job at it,” said Phillips. “I thought I could help them improve this one small area. . . . I could make the experience better for future patients to come.”

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