Monday, December 11, 2006

Loosing Patients

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.

29 comments:

m said...

I went to rehab therapy for my hand once. After awhile I felt like I was walking into the bar from the TV show Cheers. All the regulars know each other and the staff become friends.

Chickadee said...

Wow, what a great entry. It's neat to see the rapport the patients have developed with each other. I'm sure it has made the time and the discomfort of the therapy more bearable.

Anonymous said...

damn, limey, honey great post.

I did a week long stint at a local pt place, and you just brought back alot of faces to me with your descripts.

and damn, I was only there a week helping.

I liked that field.

It is so fitting for you, it seems. :)

Jodes said...

I love people watching.

ttfootball said...

You'll be outta there before Christmas Lime! What a great present! I'm sure you've worked hard for it :-)

barefoot_mistress said...

I bet, given the time and stuff, you'd be all hugging and comforting and loving them all, making them feel better.....you LOVE MAMA, you! XX

I'm not sure if I've ever had a 10 pain yet..but then again, I have a very high pain tolerance...I had a broken leg for 4 days before I finally went to a doctor who said WHEN did this happen? Erm 4 days ago, I painfully replied....
Well miss, your leg is broken in two places, it's NOT a sprain, and it's about time you got yourself in here.....
I liked the cast! It was perty, you saw it on Hijacked.

Now then there were the two boiling water burns to my right hand resulting in huge blisters and what not....I suppose they were both 10s for about two days....

And this summer, after hanging out with Logo, I was feeling all loose and free, dislocated my hip up ther ein WA, while dancing because I am "hyper mobile"...as they say..I am pretty sure that was a 10, for about 5 hours, because I was looking for a bullet to bite!
But still, Im very very tough.

Emotional pain, to me, is way way worse.

Im glad you are doing better, and we need some Janita tricks for HNT soon! Can she snap, can she clap, can she dance, can she prance?

I told ya, I always come here first and write weird things. I am awake now.

Have a lovely day XX

steve said...

I love how you got to know some of the other people there. Thats really cool. I mean I guess you could have gone in done your thing and left,but what fun would that have been?

Anonymous said...

I have never been in pain, pain does not exist, it is a figment of my imagination..even that time I had my foot hanging by a thread of tissue, there was no pain.

Seriously though, physio is a great place for people watching, better than a bar even without the alcohol.

James Goodman said...

What an inspiring post, Lime. Thanks for sharing some of the personalities you've encountered during PT. :D

Logophile said...

When I was in therapy there was this gal who started coming into the little treatment stall next to mine on a couple Mondays. She would be softly sobbing through her whole session and I thought, wow, she must be dealing with so much, poor thing.

When I was in the pool doing some exercises her therapist came in to talk to mine and with the sound carrying attributes of water I heard the whole thing.
She was there due to a sprain!!
People watching in therapy is an interesting slice of life, that is for sure.

Congrats on the progress and best wishes on even more!

AndyT13 said...

Great post as always dear. And thanks for your kind words over at my place. I'm happy to see you and Janita have made such good progress. I told you you'd play guitar again. :-) Side note: Calypso is going to break some serious hearts. Cute and talented? Oh boy. Good luck. Diana may run the world but Calypso is going to have it handed to her. Final note: I'm SO with you on cutting in. Tape is for pansies. And there are many fine uses for a woman who can wrap her knees aound her ears. Cheers!

Seamus said...

What an appropriate place to observe the complexities of human nature! Well done Michelle!
So...you're throwing a zipline party once they release you??? ;)

MyUtopia said...

Rehab sucks! Hang in there it has to end sometime : )

Anonymous said...

Boy, you just really took me back to my days in physical therapy after I left the hospital!

Sounds like you had lots of fun, interesting people to visit with and good therapists. On the other hand, it's great to hear that you will be done with it soon. Congratulations on making it this far and being done with OT:-)

Anonymous said...

Great post. Sounds like an interesting place.

I pretty much don't come across anyone interesting working out of my office in the house.

Except my cats.

But they aren;t that interesting. :)

Steve~

Anonymous said...

Oh Yeah, talking about manly macho thingies...where're my cookie recipes? I gotta get back in the kitchen or Mrs. Hypersonic is gonna whup my ass.....now there's a thought.

lecram sinun said...

Both you and Janita will get there... look how far you have come along already!

I am a people watcher too. It's something I've missed with being at the homestead as much as I am now. However, that too has its's rewards.

Cheers!

snavy said...

I think having a positive attitude speeds up the recovery process. I'm glad you finishing up and that, although difficult, you made the best of it.

jillie said...

I had actually thought about going into OT before nursing. I praise the work those people do. They have to deal with a lot more stuff than I do at times. Either way you look at it...health care is a tough job. Ohhh man...no anesthesia for your c-section. I hope they gave you some good meds after that.

Breazy said...

Congratulations! This is just one more step towards complete recovery. I have an uncle that does therapy three times a week . This has been going on for over a year. He had to have both knees completely re-built and he has gout in his legs so he has to remain in therapy. Anyways, he tells me of some of the people he has met . Some of them he still has contact with and they go out to eat and things like that . I am so glad to hear that you are almost done with therapy. I hope you have a great week!

Anonymous said...

No matter how much pain you are in, there are always folks much worse off than you. Yikes!!
There is a sort of an injury fellowship that people share.

Holiday thought for the day....

'Sometimes you are grateful for your own suffering and misery'.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post Lime. Since my dad is about to undergo physical therapy beginning any day now, I'm hoping he will be an enthusiastic patient and not try the patience of his therapists!

I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Rob said...

As always, you wrote this post with such insight into human nature and revealed so much about the sort of positive, determined, good-humored person you are, Michelle! I've made it no secret how much I enjoy your clear, concise, articulate writing style and this is yet another example of just why. You have taken a life experience and woven it into a tapestry of the personalities, emotions, and interactions between you, your occupational therapists, and other patients during the many months comprising this often-arduous journey.

I applaud you for your perseverence, your courage, your hard work, your positive attitude, and the great progress you have made. I hope that, with continued work on your own, you will approach, if not exceed, full use of your hand, wrist, and arm at a level you enjoyed before the accident.

You are truly AMAZING!

Tommy said...

Yep! Dat be ma Lime gurl! Great post dear. I know you're gonna miss it a bit but progress is good. Just make sure you get everything out of it you can before the last day. Great post.
TG

Blither said...

That is a fabulous story. A true Limey post at its finest!

Ziplining.. heh! What ya need to do is land on a nice strapping lad next time :)

Top cat said...

lime this definitely has been a long drawn out process for you.
Who would've thought a day of fun would have altered your life so much.
I'm proud of you honey for your positive outlook through this whole ordeal.
hugs
tc

KFarmer said...

You have such the right attitude- keep working it.

Sending continued healing thoughts and prayers to you and Juanita----> Be well :)

Heather said...

Awesome! Sounds like you had a great crowd to work with. I'm sure they will miss you, but will be happy none the less that you are 'out'!

Moosekahl said...

Second to the coffee house job I had for three months before I got my first "real" job, working for a year and a half as a PT tech was one of the best jobs I have had. I stil stop in at the office to say hi and if it makes you feel better...PA took two years and I have been practicing for three and some of those patients are STILL coming back :)