'All-Access' North Oaks Care Saves Local Man's Life

  • Author: Benny Latino
  • Date Submitted: Apr 9, 2024

“ Benny Latino couldn’t walk or talk after suffering a debilitating stroke. North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital's team-centric, multi-disciplinary stroke recovery care plan restored his former function. Read Benny’s story here.”

Benny Latino, Jr., is known for his gift of gab. He loves sharing stories.

As the owner of Benny’s Place on West Thomas Street for decades, he’s connected with the Hammond community daily – at church, Southeastern Louisiana University baseball games and Hi-Ho #1 Barbecue.

A stroke in 2010 initially deprived him of these joys.

“I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t do anything,” Latino recalled.

"His mind knew what he wanted to say, but he couldn't quite get it out. He'd get frustrated," son Benny Latino, III, commented.

North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital came into the picture after his discharge from North Oaks Medical Center. Staffed around-the-clock by highly experienced physicians and nurses, the inpatient rehabilitation facility offers intensive physical, occupational, speech and auditory care.

This was precisely what Latino needed. “They saved my life,” Latino shared.

His successful recovery story is one of many made possible by the care he received at North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital. This excellence stems from a team-based treatment approach, extensive certifications and the amount of time patients spend each day with their care team.

North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital is the only facility in the region to be dually accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and The Joint Commission. Staff members are long-tenured and experienced with one nurse having practiced with the team since 1995.

Medical Director and Physiatrist Rishi Pathak, MD, is at the heart of the treatment team.

“Too often in healthcare, our patients are moved too quickly through the care continuum,” he explained. “We have an advantage in the rehabilitation hospital of having time. The art of physiatry is being able to consider not only the functional mobility, cognition, balance, coordination, endurance and strength of a patient but, almost more importantly, their occupation, familial roles and obligations, and leisure activities.”

Looking at what patients were able to do prior to an illness, injury or other health episode helps the team design a personalized plan of care to get them back to the best possible health and function.

In treating Latino, the team embraced his family and got to know his interests and motivations outside of rehabilitation to help inspire his detailed treatment plan. He was assigned a team of coordinating therapists, doctors and nurses to help him combat the damage his stroke had caused.

“Physical medicine and rehabilitation are a team effort. I would be nothing if not for my exceptional treatment team of physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, case management experts and nurses,” Dr. Pathak stated. “We discuss each patient’s care daily and once weekly more formally. Additionally, we talk to and incorporate family members, especially in the case of individuals with memory deficits.”

Lisa Latino Tallia, Benny Jr.’s daughter, said the staff greeted her like a member of their family each day she came for lunch when her dad was in treatment.

"They took such great care of him. He gained confidence in his recovery. People often don't recover as well from strokes in older age, but he's had tremendous success, all thanks to North Oaks." — Lisa Latino Tallia, Benny Jr.'s daughter.

Dr. Pathak and his team are adept at helping patients regain motor and language skills after medical emergencies like accidents or strokes. He came to North Oaks in 2018 from Johns Hopkins Medicine / Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, where he was educated as a fellow in spinal cord injury medicine. The combination of expert training and experience has helped ensure better patient outcomes.

With Latino, the team didn't just work on rehabilitating the pathways in his brain affected by the stroke, but they also connected with him personally, drawing out his resilient spirit.

“He’s a fighter so he took his rehab very seriously, and then what was [unique] were the relationships he built with the people there,” son Benny remembered.

Bit by bit, Latino made gains – and now he’s back where he belongs, talking to people in the community.

North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital, the area’s only dually accredited inpatient rehabilitation facility, treats patients recovering from spinal cord injuries, strokes, amputations, multiple traumas and neurological conditions, among other medical issues. To be admitted, patients must be referred by a physician. Please call 985-230-2678 for more information.