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Opening this summer: Jojo’s Rehabilitation Unit at ChildServe

Donations make possible ‘the powerful gift of hope’


ChildServe will soon open its newly completed inpatient rehabilitation unit, Jojo’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit. The 14-bed unit, which replaces a smaller inpatient rehabilitation unit that has operated since 2007 at ChildServe’s Johnston medical campus, provides the only free-standing, comprehensive pediatric inpatient rehabilitation program for children and teens in the state of Iowa.


As a specialty pediatric health care provider, ChildServe provides more than 30 services to over 5,200 children across Iowa. The nonprofit provides care for children and teens, from birth to age 21, who have experienced medical conditions related to brain injury, spinal cord injury, orthopedic rehabilitation, and burn and wound care, as well as providing follow-up care for neo-intensive care unit infants after they leave the hospital.


The new center, which encompasses about 23,000 square feet within ChildServe’s 181,000-square-foot medical complex, includes eight inpatient rooms for children to stay while receiving rehabilitation treatment, along with a six-bed nursery. The bright, open unit features dedicated spaces for play areas suited for children of different ages — including a sensory wall with colorful interactive touch-light games for toddlers, a play space for infants and even a hangout area for teens.  


“As a nonprofit organization, projects like the rehabilitation unit are made possible as a result of philanthropy,” said Dr. Teri Wahlig, ChildServe CEO. “We are proud to offer comprehensive rehabilitation services locally, so families don’t have to travel out of state for these important health care services. What ChildServe donors and supporters have made possible through their generosity is the powerful gift of hope.”


Natural lighting from large windows provides a cheery therapy gym space that offers state-of-the-art equipment and technology, including specialized technology to help children walk, an antigravity treadmill, an aquatics center, and multiple functional electrical stimulation technologies such as the stepper, bike and Xcite.


ChildServe’s rehabilitation program is led by Dr. Fred Klingbeil, who is Iowa’s only board-certified pediatric physiatrist. “Dr. Fred, as we call him, is a unifier for pediatric rehabilitation in the state of Iowa,” Wahlig said. “He has forged partnerships and collaboration for the betterment of pediatric health care with hospitals and healthcare organizations at the local and regional level.”  


“ChildServe is unlike anything else in the nation due to the breadth of connected services all under one roof,” Klingbiel said. “Our team of experts can be found in one location – at Jojo’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit. This includes a team of certified pediatric rehabilitation nurses, over 50 certified brain injury specialists, and therapists with specialized training.”  


ChildServe’s operations are self-sustaining, primarily through Medicaid funding that pays for the costs of the treatment, Wahlig said, while donated funds are used to enhance programs, purchase equipment and expand facilities.


The new unit was funded as part of the nonprofit’s comprehensive “Forward Together” fundraising campaign that was launched in 2018, which raised $10.6 million.  


The unit is named for Joanie Houston — known as Jojo to her grandchildren — who with her husband, Dan Houston, chairman, CEO and president of Principal Financial Group, donated $500,000 for the center. Their donation was matched by a $500,000 gift by the Principal Foundation. Plaques throughout the new unit recognize numerous additional personal and corporate gifts that made the project possible.


“There is nothing more precious than a child’s health and well-being,” Joanie Houston said. “This investment builds upon an incredible 94-year history of serving children with complex medical needs and their families. We are proud and honored to be a small part of ChildServe‘s history of success.”

Additional specialized therapy equipment 

The therapy gym in Jojo’s Rehabilitation Unit will feature a new piece of highly specialized equipment for children needing rehabilitation therapy to help them walk. 


The Bioness Vector Gait and Safety System is a body weight support harness system used during gait training and other forms of rehabilitation, to help patients regain strength, balance and coordination. 


“It’s really transformational state-of-the-art technology for kids who need rehab therapy,” Wahlig said.  “It includes a robotic trolley that hooks to this rail system in the ceiling, and there’s 52 feet of track. And then from there, a child or young adult will be fitted with a safety harness that connects them to the trolley, which then suspends some of their body weight so they can get moving as it moves them along the track. We’re the only ones in the whole state of Iowa that has a pediatric system. So it’s really revolutionary technology.” 


Another example of the specialized equipment is the SPF Stepper, which helps children who have had a brain or spinal cord injury to use their muscles through gentle electrical stimulation of their muscles to help them move their legs in a coordinated fashion. That equipment has been in place for several years, Wahlig said. 


The therapy gym space will also provide a resource for some of ChildServe’s outpatient therapy patients. Most, if not all, of the rehabilitation equipment is funded through philanthropic contributions. 


For instance, Wahlig noted, Chris Norton, a former Luther College football player who was paralyzed by a football injury, has contributed through his foundation and has visited ChildServe several times to encourage and coach patients. “The last time he was here, we had a gentleman who was about 18 with a spinal cord injury, and they really connected,” she said. “Chris really helped him with his motivation.” 


Jojo’s Rehabilitation Unit will be staffed on a 24-hour basis with a 3:1 child to nurse ratio, a respiratory therapy specialist and rehabilitation therapy staff. 


The 14-bed unit is one of three inpatient units at ChildServe, which together are staffed by about 120 full-time and PRN (as-needed or on-call) nurses, plus certified nursing assistants and administrative nurses. 


The opening is set for sometime this summer; a specific opening date has not been announced. 

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