Heidi Sykora, Milwaukee Center for Independence

    Brain injury patients require significant specialized treatment post-operation. Thanks to the work of Heidi Sykora, vice president of clinical quality services at the Milwaukee Center for Independence and her staff, the Milwaukee area is now home to the region’s only post-acute inpatient brain injury program and its community-based outpatient program.

    “We had a core group of 11 clients utilizing our existing day program at the (Milwaukee Center for Independence) main campus,” she said. “Because they were people who had experienced sudden brain injury, we recognized they really needed specialized services.”

    Their circumstances were very different from the other clients served by MCFI, some of whom have had cognitive brain development issues since birth.

    In July 2013, MFCI did a complete remodel at its Bay View clinic. It added on an additional 8,000 square feet to the first floor to house the neurological rehabilitation services and the new brain injury program.

    Today, the program serves 42 patients, and could serve more if funding weren’t a challenge, Sykora said.

    “There (are) more people than we have the ability to serve at this point,” Sykora said.

    MCFI also received news that the inpatient clinic that provided around-the-clock post-acute operative care for patients recovering from brain injury would be forced to close completely in February 2014.

    Sykora and her team moved quickly to find an appropriate replacement location, work with state officials to get the necessary approvals, negotiate an agreement with the host long-term care facility, hire qualified staff and remodel the available space to comfortably and safely accommodate 18 patients.

    “I hadn’t worked with a whole lot of nurse practitioners before I met Heidi,” said Dr. Mark Schaten, an internist who has worked on several of MCFI’s health care initiatives. “But I think you would call her a model for other nurse practitioners to emulate. She always puts patients first. I’m just real proud of the work I’ve seen her do.”

    According to Sykora, it’s the team at MCFI that holds everything together.

    “Our ultimate goal is to help people succeed with brain injuries,” she said. “Without this incredible staff, there would not be a place for these patients.”

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