Refugio “Cuco” Zarate

Thirty-two-year-old Refugio “Cuco” Zarate was working construction when he was hit by a dump truck.


The accident left Zarate with multiple fractures and injuries, including his lumbar vertebra, left femur, left scapula, lumbosacral spine and pelvis. He chose to come to Garden Terrace Healthcare Center of Federal Way for his rehabilitation.


When Zarate arrived on Nov. 9, 2016, he wasn’t able to bear weight on his legs, and he needed total assistance with transferring from one surface to another and bathing. He needed extensive assistance with bed and wheelchair mobility, as well as hygiene and dressing. He even needed help to sit and to feed himself.


Physical and occupational therapists met with Zarate six days a week to help him regain his functioning ability and mobility. PTs used electrical stimulation to help prime his muscles and joints for movement, and had him perform balance exercises. Meanwhile, OTs worked on strengthening his upper body and retraining him in life skills, including getting dressed and cooking.


Garden Terrace provided Zarate with the right tools for his recovery. The Omnicycle and NuStep® machines allowed him to exercise while seated, and as he began to bear weight again, he used the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill. Designed by NASA, the AlterG has a secure enclosure that the patient zips up around the legs. The machine then creates a vacuum in the space to allow the patient to practice walking, which allowed Zarate to practice the motions of walking with up to 80 percent of his body weight relieved. As he recovered, he was able to gradually increase his weight-bearing until he was bearing his entire body weight.


“Since the first day I arrived, everything has been good,” Zarate said. “I remember I was very sick, and day by day I’ve gotten better. The therapists are very patient. I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.”


During his rehab, Zarate had a visit from his mother, father and sister, who live in Mexico.


“Cuco’s recovery is a testament to hard work, family support and excellent nursing and therapy,” said Ros Cushion, director of rehab services.


Zarate returned home on Feb. 28, 2017, independent in all his mobility and activities of daily living. He was even referred to a work hardening program so he could return to his job.