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Hospital Helps Patients Prepare for Outside World

May 27, 1985

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) _ Take a walk down Easy Street: try to get your crutches into a car, practice going into a restaurant with a walker, or just try stepping onto a curb after you’ve been confined to a hospital for a while.

Easy Street isn’t a street. It’s a room at Phoenix Memorial Hospital where patients can practice coping with everyday obstacles before they leave the hospital.

The room, which opened to patients in May, contains grocery store shelves, a bank counter and steps into a bus. There also are a restaurant, a bar, a patio, a kitchen, a bathroom - without the conveniences common to those in hospitals - and a car.

″That’s what I need some practice doing,″ said Jeanette Gale, pointing an aluminum crutch at the car.

Ms. Gale, a 46-year-old waitress who recently underwent total hip replacement, spent several minutes practicing getting into and out of the car. Its hood was chopped off where it seemed to disappear into a photo mural on a wall of Easy Street.

Debbie Eagle, the hospital’s director of rehabilitation services, offered tips on how to open the car door without losing balance.

″Thank goodness my car at home is bigger than that,‴ Ms. Gale said as she mastered getting in and out of the car.

Harry Mann, a 77-year-old Mesa retiree, was learning how to get around on a walker following knee-replacement surgery.

Mann practiced stepping onto an Easy Street curb before doing some banking and shopping.

In front of the bank counter, he had to maneuver his walker through the waiting-line ropes and position the walker so he would be supported while writing a check.

At the store, Mann found it was difficult to stand on the slick floor while reaching for heavy cans and boxes.

Ms. Gale, meanwhile, found the three steps up to the photomural of a bus a challenge.

″They’re teaching us to do things that we’ve always taken for granted,″ she said. ″Those bigs steps on the bus I can’t handle yet.″

Ms. Eagle said the patients ″get encouragement from each other, and they learn from each other.″

″This setting lets the patient socialize while they’re learning. It’s a more fun environment than the traditional physical-therapy room,″ she said.

The room’s cost was estimated at $72,000, but donations of displays by businesses allowed the hospital to reduce its actual cost to $7,200, she said.

″The patients are not charged for Easy Street other than the charge for the physical and occupational therapists’ time,″ said Ms. Eagle.

She said the hospital used to have its patients practice everyday tasks outside the hospital. ″But it’d be hot and sweaty, and they’d get frustrated. Now, we can do it all right here, and they don’t mind practicing.″

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