West Texas Rehabilitation Center changes lives

Abilene_Last year, the West Texas Rehabilitation Center treated more than 23,000 patients.  Not one person was turned away for lack of insurance or money.  The center, located in Abilene, Texas, is a place where young and old alike can learn how to walk or talk; a place where they can learn how to live in a way most of us take for granted.

Saturday, January 19, is the center's 38th annual telethon - the center's biggest fundraiser of the year.  And, it's events like the telethon that allow the center to help every patient who walks through the door.

The center started small - only one therapist treating 17 patients - in the basement of an elementary school.  Little did they know, 55 years, later it would be a leading rehabilitation center in the nation.  It's the promise of helping anyone who walks through the door that has set the center apart from all the rest.  "The rehab, from the very beginning, has had a mission of changing the quality of life for the people we serve regardless of their financial circumstance," says President and CEO Woody Gilliland.

Patients' needs are seen to in twelve different departments ranging from speech therapy to audiology, using state of the art prosthetics to physical therapy.  And, patients come to the center from all over.  Bill Keirre - paralyzed in both legs - says he drives over two hours per day, three times a week.  "It's amazing how much care and emphasis they put on, you know, you in particular.  You think you're the only one that they've got for the day," he says.

"Anytime you're able to help somebody, or provide them guidance with improving their lives, it's very rewarding," says Kierre's Physical Therapist Tom Tucker.  A little less than one year ago, Kierre was completely paralyzed in both legs.  Now, thanks to the center, he is able to walk with the help of leg braces.  He says if it weren't for people like this, he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

The center's success isn't possible without the help of donations, though.  So, the center puts on a telethon every year to help keep the center running.  Gilliland says they will have over 700 volunteers at the four-day telethon this year.  And all donations will go straight to patient care.  Last year the center raised over one million dollars.

Gilliland says the circumstances of patient diagnosis can be quite complex - and the patients include small children.  "We say around here an awful lot, if not the rehab, who?"  They turn to the West Texas Rehabilitation Center.  And, they've changed many lives.  "It's amazing you know the caring that they give you, they don't go just by the book, they go by what's good for you, what's helping you," says Kierre.

In support of the center's annual telethon that runs Saturday, January 19, at 7pm, 7News will be running a weeklong series that includes stories about the West Texas Rehabilitation Center.  Tune in to your 7News station at 6pm for more life changing stories.