November 26, 2013

ECH keeps patients active during recovery


ELIZABETHTOWN — Recreational therapy can be a major aspect of a holistic approach to recuperation.

Just ask Marshall Dumas and Jerry Beck, two local men who have benefited from activities and attention at Elizabethtown Community Hospital.


In-patient rehabilitation helps patients recover from hospitalization due to joint replacement, illness, injury, surgery, stroke and other ailments.

Some patients can choose a smaller, more localized hospital to continue their recovery and rehabilitation while being closer to friends, family and their home community.

Inpatient rehab at Elizabethtown Community comprises individualized physical, occupational and recreational therapy.

To assist in making their lives more meaningful during extended stays, ECH Certified Activities Director Kamala Hulburt works with them to ensure that their personal interests, hobbies, social life and activities can be maintained.

Therapy helps with the patients’ motor skills, physical abilities, manual dexterity and overall psychological well-being.


Hulburt utilizes her bachelor of fine arts background for art-oriented projects, such as painting, drawing and sculpture. She recently achieved certification through the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals.

“I once worked with a patient who had lost the ability to see. I learned that she had been an artist — a painter, I believe. So, I simply found another outlet for her passion. I began sculpting with her.

“We used clay and moldable elements so that she could continue with her love of creating and using her hands. We simply did it using a different medium.

“You could see the change in her demeanor almost instantly.”


Marshall Dumas, who lives in Lewis, benefited from the program.

“I was not just stuck in my room, just thinking and looking at the ceiling for many hours of the day,” said the 49-year-old double-stroke survivor.

Dumas, a former steel-mill worker, said his problems began after he hurt his back in 2000.

He said it is more personal at ECH than when he was hospitalized at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.

“It’s like being with a family,” he said.

Holding Hulburt’s hand, he added, “Kammy really helped me through a hard time and got me going.”


Dumas said that when he first arrived at ECH, he was bed-ridden and had to be lifted with a hoist.

“Then they got me into therapy (PT, OT) four times a day. By the third week, I could start doing stuff by myself. This was an incentive to try to get better.

“They encouraged me when I wasn’t in the mood,” he said. “They are not just like doctors following a script.”

After discovering that baking was one of Dumas’s passions, Hulbert took him to buy supplies and arranged for him to bake in the ECH kitchen, supervised by an occupational therapist. He shared his baked goods with staff and patients.

Hulburt and occupational therapist Angie Baker, took Dumas fishing at Lincoln Pond.

“I hunted and fished a lot. I like to be outdoors, and this gave me the opportunity to do so,” he said.

 At the end of his hospital stay, the ECH team did a home visit to ascertain if he could safely acclimate.

“We do home visits to make sure the patient can navigate and be safe before they are discharged,” said Hooper. 

“They taught my girlfriend of 19 years how to take care of me and address my needs until I could do stuff myself. I couldn’t even do this” said Dumas, as he put sweetener and cream into his coffee.


Calendars on the wall of patients’ rooms list a multitude of activities, which include, depending on the season, church, sporting events, the Essex County Fair, farmers markets, dining opportunities with other patients, puzzles, playing cards and Wii games, Kindle usage, patient photography, music, baking, hobbies and scenic drives.

In trying to keep their activities as constant as possible, Hulbert has even taken patients to visit family members in jail, because that was part of their routine before coming to ECH.

“We’re small and get to know everybody and find out about what they like to do,” ECH Director of Community Relations Jane Hooper said. “Kammy learns about each patient and capitalizes on it. It’s a team effort, with OT, PT as well as recreational therapy.

“The mind is a huge part of the recovery,” Hooper added. “Sanity and human interaction all affect the physical recovery.”


Jerome “Jerry” Beck, 64, of AuSable Forks, was seriously injured when the Harley he was riding at 50 mph collided with a deer on Aug. 20.

“I had a bad concussion and didn’t remember the accident,” he said. “My right leg and foot were broken, as well as my ribs and elbow.

“When I came around, I looked up at the ceiling. I knew I had part of my leg amputated. I looked to God and said, ‘Everything will be all right.’”

After surgery and some recovery at Fletcher Allen, Beck, a machinist at Plattco in Plattsburgh, was transferred to ECH.

There, his earlier interest in art was rekindled.

“A son brought me some colored pencils so I could underline scriptures in the Bible. But then I asked for and got some art paper. It kept me from being bored and gave me some inspiration. I have really good people around me,” Beck said.

Hulbert obtained paints and a board for Beck and made it possible for him to paint in his room.

Pointing to one of his creations, Beck said: “This abstract-like painting is called ‘Apples.’ It’s the first painting I have done in years. When I get out of here, I plan on continuing to paint.”


Hooper said it was interesting to watch Beck’s recovery.

“At first, he struggled to get out of a chair. Now we see him walking in the halls with a walker. It’s inspiring to see progress like this,” said Hooper.

“This is a good place to be,” Beck said. “They are going out of their way to help me. If you listen to what they tell you, you will recover.

“I have to get back on my Harley. Next spring, I hope to take one of my motorcycles apart and rebuild it.”

Email Alvin



Inpatient rehabilitation is the focus of Elizabethtown Community Hospital's annual fundraising campaign.

The hospital has been working to re-decorate rooms to offer a more home-oriented environment. Contact Jane Hooper at 873-3003 for more information about making a gift to the hospital's campaign.