ABILENE, TX (KSWO) -Each year, thousands of people come from neighboring states and all across Texas to receive specialized therapy at the West Texas Rehab Center in Abilene.
The organization is full of highly trained therapists and staff who strive to help people of all ages overcome their disabilities. The rehab facility was established in 1953 as a non-profit center to serve anyone in need, regardless of their financial situation. Through the years, the organization has kept that mission and is now one of the largest and most comprehensive rehab centers in the nation.
Saturday night, Jan. 16, you can help support the center's mission by donating during their 46th annual telethon shown right here on KSWO.
Each day, 500 patients come through the doors of the West Texas Rehab Center in need of some form of therapy; whether it's occupational, speech or physical. And it has been that way for the last 63 years.
President and CEO of the center Steve Martin says they work with all ages, from birth to death.
"In the neonatal intensive-care units when those kiddos fail to thrive, fail to get out of the hospital like they're supposed to, will go in there at that very early age. And a lot of times in our hospice program that patient, our employees, our staff are the last ones to see them alive," Martin said.
Martin says the relationships are so strong between patient and therapist that they become not only a care giver, but family.
"These therapists grow attached to these little babies in the NICU, and they will come and be here for about 16-17-18 years and they're actually at their graduation when they graduate high school," Martin said.
The patients are able to get the long-term therapy they need because when they come to West Texas Rehab, the first thing they are asked is…
"Are you going to need help paying your bill, and that's very unique to us in this day and age in health care. Most times if you go to a health care provider they go, will that be check, cash or credit card," Martin explained.
The specialized medical treatment comes with tremendous overhead costs. The center has an operating budget of $20 million, which includes an orthotics and prosthetics wing.
"When you think orthotics, you think everything bracing, whether its athletic bracing or putting a cranial molding helmet on a kiddo that's got a misshapen head. When you think prosthetics, you think replacement of a limb," Martin said.
The rehab center makes all their braces and prosthesis in-house. Each patient is measure and sized to ensure their perfect fit.
Martin says because the center goes above and beyond for its patients, many people will travel long distances just to get well, like an Oklahoma man who had to re-learn to walk.
"We actually had a patient a couple years ago that traveled from Oklahoma two days a week to come to Abilene to be seen, because they didn't have anything like this in Oklahoma," Martin said.
Last year, the West Texas Rehab Center raised more than $1.3 million, and they hope to at least match that this year.
Don't forget you can watch this year's telethon on Saturday, Jan. 16, on KSWO from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m., and then again from 10:30 p.m. until midnight. The headliner for the event is Sawyer Brown and the show will be hosted by Charlie Chase.
There is also an online auction you can go to all this week with various high-quality items. Bidding ends Saturday at midnight at rehabauction.org.