ST. LOUIS - Mercy Rehabilitation Hospital in St. Louis, which opened in 2007, marked a milestone of caring for its 10,000th patient in May.
One of those patients, Jessica Sehnert, took her own experience with therapists and turned it into a career.
Memorial Day Weekend in 2008 Sehnert was camping with friends when they went for a four-wheeler ride, hit a ditch and she was thrown from it – with no helmet. She was flown to Mercy Hospital St. Louis where she spent two weeks in the intensive care unit.
“I don’t remember much until I moved to Mercy Rehab Hospital,” Sehnert said. “Things were cloudy and I couldn’t get my thoughts out so I didn’t communicate much and was really quiet.”
In addition to the cognitive issues, Sehnert couldn’t walk and had other physical deficits including losing the use of her dominant hand. But she didn’t let that stop her.
“I embraced what I could do,” Sehnert recalled. “I was able to switch hands and after a month at Mercy Rehab, I did my home exercise program every day and continued to come back for outpatient therapy.”
Before her accident, Sehnert was in nursing school and tried to continue once she recovered. However, she did have some issues with the fine motor skills needed during her clinical training. So she switched gears and decided to pursue physical therapy.
“I was at a crossroads and was being pulled in a different direction. It was a tough way to receive a signal but I realized therapy would be a great way to give back,” Sehnert said. “Now I can spend my life returning to others the care that was provided to me.”
During her schooling, Sehnert continued to stay involved at the Mercy Rehab Hospital by volunteering and maintaining relationships. Once she graduated with a physical therapy assistant degree, she had a goal to return to Mercy as a co-worker and met that goal.
While she doesn’t disclose her history to everyone, she recognizes situations where patients could benefit from knowing she’s been in their shoes.
“It’s a lifestyle, not a part-time job,” Sehnert said. “There have been more than 10,000 patients whose lives have been changed because of the care provided here and I’m humbled to be part of that. There might be another person like me I can impact.”
Mercy, named one of the top five large U.S. health systems in 2017 by Truven, an IBM Watson Health company, serves millions annually. Mercy includes 44 acute care and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, more than 700 physician practices and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,000 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.