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Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico

Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for its Stroke Rehabilitation on February 14, 2013 after a rigorous on-site review by an expert evaluator.   This certification validates the commitment to providing the highest standards of care to stroke survivors and recognizes dedication to continuous compliance with The Joint Commission’s state-of-art standards.
Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve health care for the public. The Disease-Specific Care Certification Program, launched in 2002, is designed to evaluate clinical programs across the continuum of care.
“Our team has worked very hard on developing and improving the delivery of our care for stroke survivors in our community since we first opened,” says Sabrina Martin, COO of Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico. “The opportunity to participate in The Joint Commission Disease-Specific Care Certification Program allowed us to formalize and validate practices that ensure optimal outcomes for this population”.

Certification requirements address three core areas:

  • Compliance with consensus-based national standards.
  • Effective use of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines to manage and optimize care.
  • Organized approach to performance measurement and improvement activities.

“Stroke continues to be highly prevalent in our community and is often a life changing event for the stroke survivor and their family,” Martin says. “We feel it is our obligation and privilege to work with both Mountain View Regional Medical Center, who recently became a Primary Stroke Center through The Joint Commission, and Memorial Medical Center to continue to improve services to stroke survivors in Southern New Mexico.

Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico has been a member of the Las Cruces community since January, 24, 2005, providing comprehensive rehab services to patients recovering from strokes, head and spinal cord injuries and other functional deficits caused by injuries or illness.  

06.04.14– Knowing the signs, FAST

LC hospital seeks to spread stroke awareness

By Rachel Christiansen
Las Cruces Bulletin

Dr. Altaf Ahmed has a constantly full schedule, but for the month of May, he will add to his calendar something near and dear to his heart – educating the public about strokes, something he has sought to do for the last 20 years of his medical career.

Ahmed, a physical medical rehabilitation specialist at the Advanced and Rehabilitation Hospitals of Southern New Mexico, will tour several locations in Las Cruces throughout National Stroke Awareness Month to discuss prevention as well as recognition tactics.

It’s important, he said, because stroke is the second leading cause of death in New Mexico.

“I see the disabilities the (survivors) have and what a burden and struggle it is for them and their family, so by addressing these issues and educating people, I feel I can make a difference,” Ahmed said, adding 80 percent of strokes are preventable.

Lifestyle can play a large part in someone’s risk factor, Ahmed said, in whether or not someone has high blood pressure, smokes, drinks excessive alcohol or has diabetes. A combination of these things can double and triple someone’s risk.

Because of the stroke risk factors, including (continued below picture)

William Rogers lost the complete use of his left arm during a stroke, and receives occupational therapy Tuesday, April 29, from therapist Nicole Smith and technician Jaime Zuniga at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico. Smith said the therapy exercise in which he pulls his arm down with weight resistance is teaching the brain to rewire itself to work the arm muscles again.

Las Cruces Bulletin photo by Rachel Christiansen

diabetes and hypertension, New Mexico’s large Hispanic population, who has a higher incidence of these symptoms, drives the high numbers of New Mexico’s stroke patients.

Rachel Barraza, a physical therapist who co-champions the neuro team at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico, said that each stroke patient is different, depending on which part of the brain was affected and how much time elapsed before emergency treatment was administered.

“It definitely varies from patient to patient, and no person’s stroke is the same from one to the other,” Barraza said. “It’s not really black and white.”

When a stroke survivor comes to the rehabilitation hospital from the acute care facility, usually within seven to 10 days, she said, an evaluation is done on each patient to determine their individual needs.

“We work on all of their physical aspects, speech, occupational and physical therapy, all to get them more independent with their activities of daily living, because our ultimate goal is to get them home and back in the community,” Barraza said.

One of the biggest educational tools Ahmed and the neuro team at the hospital promote is the use of the FAST acronym when determining if someone may be having a stroke – face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call 911.

Ischemic stroke patients have up to three hours from the beginning of the stroke toreceive the emergency intraveneous treatment known as t-PA, which could mean the difference between life and death. “Time is everything,” Barraza said.

Although Barraza said she mainly works with individual patients on their walking, balance and mobility issues after they have a stroke, she said getting to see them become more independent every day with the help of all the doctors and therapists at the hospital is the most gratifying part of her job, all leading up to the moment they get to go home.

“You have to respect that someone went from being independent to sometimes not being able to get themselves to the toilet,” Barraza said. “Understanding that and helping them gain back their independence is what we are trying to do.”

The Rehabilitation Hospital will host an event to kickoff the education effort at noon Friday, May 2, in which Mayor pro-tem Greg Smith will sign a proclamation declaring May Stroke Awareness Month in Las Cruces.

Following the kickoff, Ahmed will give presentations at 11:30 a.m. Monday, May 12 to the Kiwanis Club at Main Street Bistro, 139 N. Main St.; 11 a.m. Thursday at Golden Mesa, 151 N. Roadrunner Parkway; at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 17 at the Farmers Market of Las Cruces; 11:45 a.m. Thursday, May 27 at the Las Cruces Convention Center, 680 E. University Ave.; and at 2 p.m. Friday, May 30, at Good Samaritan Society-Las Cruces Village, 3025 Terrace Drive.

Capping off the month will be a golf tournament Saturday, May 31, at Sonoma Ranch Golf Course, 1274 Golf Club Road.



Know the signs of stroke, a leading cause of death in New Mexico

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in New Mexico

By Matlin Smith

LAS CRUCES - Ronnie Tafoya had a phone call at 5 a.m. on the morning of Dec. 30, 2012. A friend called to thank him for wishing her a happy birthday, and to catch up. After they hung up, Tafoya started a pot of coffee.

"While the coffee was making, I had a little voice come to my head that said, 'Dial 911,'" he told a crowd of medical personnel and stroke survivors at an event kicking of National Stroke Awareness Month in May. "So I turned around and I walked to my room. As soon as I got to the doorway, the stroke hit me and I thought to myself, 'Man, you're in trouble.'"

He got to his cell phone and was connected to a 911 operator who asked, "What's your emergency?"

Then, the second part of the stroke hit, taking Tafoya's ability to speak.
After communicating through a series of mumbles, EMT's broke down Tafoya's door, which had been locked and deadlocked.

"A couple of pounds on the door, and they were in. They walked up to me and said everything was going to be OK and one of them said, 'Close your eyes,'" he recalled. "No way. I really didn't believe that if I closed my eyes, that I would ever see anything again."

Nine days later, Tafoya woke up from a coma in the hospital, surrounded by doctors, his mom, brothers and few signs of encouragement.

"The more I talked, the more I could see on their faces that they couldn't understand a word I said," he recalled with a catch in his throat. "After everybody left, my youngest brother came to me and said, 'If you want to communicate, you gotta do this, this, and this.'"

After the last nurse left the hospital that evening, Tafoya pulled himself into a wheelchair, and wheeled himself into the bathroom where, he said, he tried everything to get his voice back, include singing, raising his volume, and thinking about every word he was going to say.

"I wanted to make sure that I was understood and that I was heard," he said.
The next morning, the first nurse who came in to check on Tafoya said, simply, "Good morning."

"And you know what I said? Good morning. And she looked like she had just seen a ghost. And that day, they could not shut me up," he said to the crowd's laughter.
Shortly after, Tafoya was taken to the Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico, 4451 E. Lohman, where he did more than what was asked of him during his rehab session.

"I could always do more than I needed. I wanted to get better," he said.
Today, he walks, talks, champions for other stroke victims and survivors, and only uses his wheelchair to take his groceries into his house.

More at risk
Minorities and women carry the highest risk of having a stroke, said RHSNM Dr. Altaf Ahmed.

In Hispanics, he said, one in four men, and one in three women, will die of stroke and heart diseases this year. Hispanics are also more likely to get stroke at a younger age than Caucasians.

According to a recent study cited by Ahmed, Hispanics are also less likely to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke as urgent and an immediate need to go to the emergency room.

Women also hold a staggering amount of statistics related to stroke.
Surveys conducted throughout the country indicate that 7 out of 10 women are not aware that they are more likely to get a stroke than men, Ahmed said.

"Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer, yet our focus has been so much in the media on breast cancer," Ahmed said.

Around 55,000 more women will have a stroke than men this year, and are at greater risk for facing a major disability as a result, he added.

According to statistics, there are about 800,000 strokes each year in the U.S., with 144,000 resulting deaths. There are around 7 million stroke survivors in the U.S., but Ahmed said about a third are left severely disabled.

"Our focus (is the) prevention of strokes," he said. "One of the things we do know is that 80 percent of strokes are preventable. The spotlight hence is going to be focused on increasing awareness in our community."

About strokes
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in America and the third leading cause of death in New Mexico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics from 2010, the most recent available.

According to the National Stroke Association, occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery, or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain, causing brain cells to die and damage to the brain.

There are two main types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic.

Ischemic strokes — which make up about 85 percent of cases — are caused when a clot lodges in a blood vessel to block oxygen and nutrients from the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel bursts.

According to experts, treatments for strokes include drugs and enzymes — called tPA — found naturally in the body that help reestablish blood flow to the brain by dissolving the clots, as well as the MERCI Retrieval System and Penumbra system that restore blood flow by removing blood clots.

The NSA said it is easy for people to recognize stroke symptoms by learning to think F.A.S.T.

•Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
•Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
•Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?
•Time: If you observe any of these signs, then it's time to call 911.

Many of the leading causes of stroke are preventable.

For brain health and reducing stroke risk, NSA and The Joint Commission — a group that gives stroke and other disease accreditations to hospitals — recommend regular exercise; no smoking; a well-balanced diet; drinking alcohol in moderation; containing high blood pressure and diabetes; eating fruits, vegetables and potassium and reducing stress.

Local stroke care options
The RHSNM and MountainView Regional Medical Center in Las Cruces have received their primary stroke center certifications from The Joint Commission, denoting that the disease-specific care centers are encouraged to maintain a level of standards that help provide a higher quality of care for patients with that specific disease or illness.

The Las Cruces Stroke Support Group for survivors, caregivers, family and friends, meets on the first Thursday of every month at 1 p.m. at Munson Senior Center, 975 S. Mesquite. For more information, contact Larry Edgecomb at 575-522-2625, or Bert Hinojosa at 575-382-5655.

The National Stroke Association also provides helpful advice and information to stroke survivors for any stroke-related medical issues and lifestyle changes at

Matlin Smith may be reached at 575-541-5468.

A closer look: Stroke risk factors
Uncontrollable risk factors for stroke:
•Family history
•Previous stroke or transient ischemic attack

Controllable risk factors:
•High blood pressure
•Atrial fibrillations
•High cholesterol
•Circulation problems
•Tobacco use, smoking
•Alcohol use
•Physical inactivity
— National Stroke Association

A closer look: Signs of a stroke
• Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg — especially on one side of the body.
• Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
• Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
• Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
• Severe headache with no known cause.

12.30.2011– Health Care Facilities Have Big Goals for 2012
By Rachel Christiansen, Las Cruces Bulletin

As the future of the nation’s health care rests undecidedly in the hands of Washington’s lawmakers, pressure is now on providers to ensure quality and efficient care. Fortunately for those living in southern New Mexico, the idea of leaving the state to receive such care has become a thing of the past, thanks to a very dedicated medical community.
Click here to read full article.

Chamber’s Leadership Class Tours Health Care Facilities

Participants of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce Leadership Las Cruces 2010 class took a tour of area health care facilities Friday, May 21, as part of Health Care Day.

Following the mini health fair, a panel of local health experts convened to talk about the state of the health care industry in Las Cruces and how each leader and their respective organization contributed to the area’s health care needs. Panelists ranged from Denton Park, CEO of MountainView Regional Medical Center, to Donna Brown, executive director of Mesilla Valley Hospice. Organizations represented on the panel included La Clinica de Familia, Mesilla Valley Hospital, Mesilla Valley Hospice, Ben Archer Health Clinics, the New Mexico Department of Public Health, The Rehab Hospital of Southern New Mexico, Advanced Care Hospital of Southern New Mexico and MountainView Regional Medical Center.
Click here to learn more.

RHSNM Hearts for Haiti Fundraiser

Caption: Salvation Army Captain Cristian Sibaja &
Captain Rebeca Sibaja Accept Check

Employees at RHSNM and ACHSNM had a week-long fundraiser to raise money for Hearts for Haiti. After an entire week of hot dog stands, burrito and donut sales, RHSNM and ACHSNM matched what the employees had raised dollar for dollar. The successful event closed with a check being presented to the Salvation Army.

Bioness Community Screening
Thursday, April 1, 2010
1pm - 5pm
For an appointment, call (575) 521-6400

A Good Year for Health Care in Southern New Mexico
Area medical facilities focus on high-quality care
By Natisha Hales, Las Cruces Bulletin, 2010 Legislative Guide

It has been an interesting year for almost every industry throughout the United States, especially health care. Controversy has swirled around health care reform and the recession, leaving much uncertainty in the field.

But one thing’s for sure in the Mesilla Valley – Las Cruces remains the health care hub for southern New Mexico, and each of its facilities have maintained quality care for Las Cruces and its surrounding areas. This year, despite budgetary shortfalls and new regulations, some medical centers have been able to expand to meet their goals of quality patient care. Click here to read full article.

Know the symptoms of stroke in New Mexico
In her job, Amy Potts sees the debilitating effects of stroke. Potts is a clinical liaison at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico in Las Cruces.

Therapists at the hospital spend much of their days working with stroke victims, helping them regain functions they have lost. Strokes range greatly in severity, from minor afflictions to complete flaccidity on one side of the body.

"We focus on recovery," Potts said. "With proper treatment and stimulation of the brain they can overcome their disability to do their daily activities. They exercise brain so other parts can take over for the damaged areas. Click here for more information. Click here for more information.

02.15.2008 –
Today, Tony Hernandez turns 39. A Las Crucen for more than three years, Hernandez is the CEO of the Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico, which started taking patients in January of 2005. He said his favorite part of the job is when a patient is released. Click here for more information.

04.27.2007 –
RHSNM CEO Tony Hernandez plays important role in hospital’s success. Click here for more information.

RHSNM celebrates National Rehabilitation Week. Click here for more details.

06.06.2005RHSNM hosts Conductive Education program for children with cerebral palsy and other motor disorders. Click here for more information.

– Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico celebrates grand opening. Click here to learn more.

02.28.2005 – Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico launches advertising campaign. Click here to view print ads and outdoor billboards.