I've been in Occupational Therapy for Janita three times a week for 6 1/2 months. That's a long time. I wondered about the record lengths for other patients. Each of my 2 therapists said they could think of about 2 or 3 patients each that had exceded my tenure. Ok, I'm glad at least that I don't have the record, even though I seem to be in the top 5 or 10. It has been interesting to be there that long and have a chance to observe the different therapists and patients who have come and gone.
I'm a people watcher and this has been a unique opportunity for engaging in that pasttime because here you see a group of people who all have some sort of injury or disability in common. That can bring out the best or the worst in people. I have to give kudos to the terrific therapists who deal with the cranky and unmotivated patients as well as those of us who come to do our necessary work with as decent an attitutde as we can muster. Personally, I figure the therapists have a hard job to begin with and they are there to help me. I don't want to make their job harder because it doesn't help either them or me.
Not every patient seems to share that idea. I don't say that to judge them, because some of them are in such excruciating pain or have endured such incapacitating injury they are hard-pressed to function even in simple ways. It's just an observation. That being said, when I met 'Mack' I was rather astonished. He has a pretty nasty wrist injury from an accident at work. He was quite thrilled to describe in precise detail and with an ear-to-ear grin every disgusting stage of the injury and reconstruction and nasty post-surgical complications he suffered. I'll spare you a verbatim retelling, but the imagery is seared into my brain and I don't relish trying to eat after conjuring the memory. Each time we start therapy we are asked to rank our pain on a 1-10 scale, 10 being the worst. Now let my just say, that even having endured a c-sec with failed anesthesia and a herniated disk that flattened me and for which I was threatened with surgery I NEVER used a 10 to describe ANY pain until I had bones sticking out of my arm. Furthermore, I ONLY used a 10 when I was in the ER, before I was reassembled. The post surgical pain was at times 8 or 9, until they found meds that worked for me but never a 10. When Mack sat at the OT table smiling and joking and detailing how he planned to sue his employer and what he planned to do with his award and THEN said he was currently at a pain level of 10 my OT and I quickly exchanged glances that clearly indicated we both thought Mack was full of crap.
'Levan' is one of the patients who just seems embarassed to be there at all. I feel really bad for him because he's a young guy who clearly is in shape but can now barely walk with a cane and can't use his right arm. He avoids eye contact with everyone. He's a new patient with a long road ahead of him. I hope he can somehow manage to embrace the encouragement his therpaists have for him. I wish I could introduce him to...
'Betty' who was there months ago after a broken hip. She was clearly in pain and moving around very slowly with a walker. Regardless of her situation she'd greet everyone with a sincere smile. If you asked her how she was she'd beam and proclaim, 'I'm good and getting better every day!'
And then there is 'Robert' who is recovering from a stroke. He has great difficulty speaking but it doesn't seem to hamper his ability to flirt with the female therapists and joke with the men. He's a real character.
One fellow I enjoyed getting to know and share therapy time with was 'James' who is in his early 50s. He lives a very active lifestyle and is quite fit in spite of a degenerative condition that attacks his joints. He came in after surgery to correct the problem in his arms. He had lived with constant pain for 25 years he said and while he was motivated to do what was necessary to heal he didn't really believe he might be pain free. Our therapist find the right combination of post-surgical treatments that gave him almost complete relief and it was such a delight to share his joy as we cheered each other on through therapy. He was a positive, hard working guy with a good sense of humor who wished me well in my process when he was discharged. I hope he is still enjoying pain free days.
A common topic of conversation in therapy, with those who will talk, is the respective situations that put us in this common place. Again, some folks don't want to discuss it. Others go into excessive detail. Regardless, 'What are ya in for?' is the first question the established patients ask the newbies they meet. It was always interesting to see the reaction to my story. Some would chastise me with, 'A woman your age should know better than to go ziplining.' Others would admonish, 'Well I guess you won't do that again!' To which I'd retort, 'Not without a harness but yeah, I'd go again.' By then they are sure I knocked a screw or two loose. The last group would agree with me that at least I had a good story or tell me to keep my spunk.
There's been quite a parade of patients over the months but it looks like I finally will be the one wishing the others well in their recovery as I walk out the door the last time in the next week or so. I am profoundly grateful for the expertise of my two wonderful OTs who have made the entire process something positive instead of a thing to be dreaded. They've cheered me through the months and we've shared some great laughs along the way. I've still got work to do but it's time to do it on my own.