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Major league rehabilitation

River Cats visit patients in the Sutter Rehabilitation Institute at Sutter Roseville Medical Center—and it’s all in the name of therapy
By: Josh Fernandez The Press Tribune
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As River Cats left fielder Corey Wimberly and pitcher Fernando Hernandez walk into Frances “Frankie” Cleverley’s room at the Sutter Rehabilitation Institute on Thursday, she lights up. The wide-eyed joy and childlike grin on her face indicate that she’s in her early 80s. “I’m 94,” she jokes. “Don’t tell me I look it.” The players laugh and then autograph a baseball while River Cats mascot Dinger hams-it-up for a photo opportunity. But before the minor leaguers move on to the next room, Cleverly (in the rehabilitation center for a hip injury) offers some friendly relationship advice to the two, young sports stars. “You have to start out being good friends,” she says. “If your mate does some little thing you don’t like, cure it before you marry them!” Wimberly and Hernandez spend the next half-hour walking around the beautiful 55,000 square-foot building — the region’s only standalone facility dedicated exclusively to rehabilitation — talking to patients. With each visit, a buzz of excitement fills the room. The patients love having guests and the players love visiting. “You meet some interesting people,” Wimberly says. It’s true. In a span of 10 minutes, they meet an artist named Art Singh, a man named Alray Weatherly (who prefers to be called “Bud”) and Jimmy Smallwood, who’s been in rehab for 11 days after four heart bypasses. And, of course, the conversation usually drifts toward baseball. “I like to watch the Giants, but the Dallas Cowboys are my boys,” Smallwood says. “I’m a Jaguar fan,” Wimberly replies. “My dad’s a Cowboys fan.” When asked if he’s enjoying his stay in the hospital, Smallwood says it’s been a great experience. “You couldn’t ask for better people that [work] here,” he says. The staff at the Sutter Rehabilitation Institute provides therapeutic care for patients with a variety of conditions, including stroke, brain injury, amputation, spinal chord and degenerative neurological disorders. A team of experts—physicians, registered nurses and physical, occupational, speech and recreation therapists—works tirelessly to help patients achieve self-sufficiency. Rehabilitation Aid Dee Viera says the River Cats visit is all part of the concerted effort to evaluate patients and eventually rehabilitate them so they can continue a healthy life outside of the medical center. When patient Barbara Barnes sits up in her bed to bid farewell to Wimberly and Hernandez, she smiles ear-to-ear. “Thank you so much for being here,” she says. “You bring a lot of pleasure.”