Director of the Musculoskeletal and Multisystem Rehab Program,
Toronto Rehab Institute, UHN
Beyond the usual team of physiotherapists and nurses, John Flannery has expanded UHN’s rehab centre to collaborate with occupational therapists, pharmacists, social workers, dietitians and surgeons to be able to repair pretty much any body function imaginable. This stacked approach was put to the test last year, when a 19-year-old patient named Tom Fahlman landed at Flannery’s centre from Regina. He’d had a rare form of sarcoma and, because he was bedridden for nine months, his joints were seized. On top of that, Fahlman’s leg muscles had contracted so much that his toes pulled downward in a permanent ballerina point. Flannery rarely sees someone so young so immobilized; most of his patients are older, recovering from surgeries and discharged within a month. After an oncologist discovered that Fahlman was in remission, Flannery orchestrated a game plan that would resurrect the poor guy: a pharmacist okayed an off-label medication that Flannery used to partially paralyze his calves, so that an orthopaedic surgeon could lengthen and stretch the muscles. Over the course of a year, an army of physiotherapists and nurses got him walking again.