Trauma survivor: newly approved rehab institute ‘allows holistic approach’ to recovery

GOOCHLAND, Va. (WRIC) – A new rehabilitation hospital is headed to Goochland County. The $119 million facility is a partnership between Sheltering Arms and VCU Health.

8News spoke with a trauma survivor who explained why he believes the new hospital is desperately needed in the area.

“Having a support system around you is crucial to that emotional side of things,” said Cole Sydnor, “because you’re in a situation where you might not be able to draw on your own strength.”

As a high school junior in 2011, Sydnor dove into the James River. He was instantly paralyzed after hitting his head on a rock. “That left me as a quadriplegic with no function from the chest down,” he told 8News.

“I have a little function in my biceps and a little in my wrists but that’s about it.”

When it came to rehabilitation, Sydnor said he was faced with limited specialized treatment options in Central Virginia. “I flew down to Shepherd Center in Atlanta ten days after my injury because people here in our (local) hospitals were telling me I need to go there, which shouldn’t be the case.”

That’s why Sydnor said he is pleased to see plans moving forward for the Sheltering Arms Rehab Institute. “Having that here allows the holistic approach.”

The 114-bed facility is slated to provide care for people with strokes, brain and spinal cord injuries.

“Patients don’t have to leave the community so that they can stay right here, receive care for spinal cord injuries and brain injuries,” explained Sheltering Arms CEO Mary Zweifel.

The state-of-the-art hospital will be built on a 25-acre site in the West Creek Medical Park off Broad Street Road. “This facility will get them up, get them moving, and get them back to their communities,” Zweifel said.
As Sydnor makes strides in his own recovery, he said he is filled with hope for those in the greater Richmond area fighting the same battles. “There’s still a lot of fun to be had, you know?” he said. “There’s a lot of life to be lived.”

The next steps in the process will be to review and approve plans for a proposed fall 2020 opening.