Sitting on the Other Side of Therapy, page 1
the Other Side
Jessica D. Adams
Copyright © 2016 Jessica D. Adams
All rights reserved.
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In high school, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life after graduation. I knew I wanted to help people, and I was interested in the medical field. I did not like the thought of seeing any kind of blood. I was like my mother in that respect. She used to faint at the sight of blood. During a career day in high school, the elementary school's Occupational Therapist visited my classroom. He talked about therapy and how it helped my friend Eric, who had Muscular Dystrophy. I felt Occupational Therapy was a very interesting field, so I started to research the career.
My dad was not thrilled with the idea of me being an OT. He told me I would not like helping people wipe their behinds, and that I would not pass the certification exam. He also was concerned I would hurt my back. Going away to college in the city also did not thrill him. I was determined. I did not change my mind, and eventually he actually helped me along the way with visiting and applying to colleges. I attended Bloomsburg University of PA for two years, then transferred to Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA for two years. Oddly, I actually failed my very first paper I had to write about Occupational Therapy. The class was instructed to pick a magazine article and write about the occupations occurring in the article. I thought I was so smart by picking an article about a student. I wrote about how being a student was the occupation. I failed because being a student was the role. The occupation was what the student needed to do in order to fulfill the role, such as reading and writing. Failing the paper actually helped me understand what Occupational Therapy was really all about. Helping others perform their desired activities, or occupations. Anything from dressing, bathing, grooming, driving, cooking, cleaning, or any meaningful activity that the person needed or wanted to perform after illness, injury or disability.
I earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in Occupational Therapy. I proved my dad wrong and passed the certification exam. My class was the second to last class to be eligible for the Bachelor's degree. After the class under me, a Master's degree was required. I was not a fan of school, so the Bachelor's degree suited me well. Since my mother passed away, her life insurance left us ineligible for any kind of grant or loan, so less cost of school was a welcome benefit. I was fortunate enough to earn the Dean's scholarship at Thomas Jefferson University.
After completing my internships, I entered the workforce fairly quickly as an entry level OT. My dad and I had an arrangement that he would pay for my school, and once I started working, I would pay him back. It took me less than a year to pay my dad back for my schooling, since I had no other bills and still lived at home. I can still remember the day I asked my dad how I should keep track of my money in the check book since I paid him back. He could not believe how fast I paid him back. I was very proud.
Working as an OT has been very rewarding. I have learned so much from other therapists along the way. I love helping patients recover from illness and injury. I have been mostly successful in getting patients to participate. I rarely have refusals. When I was doing an internship, I was the only therapist a patient would work with, and I was only a student at the time! The patient refused PT, so I had to be the OT and do some PT things with her as well. The therapists were all impressed with my ability to relate to the patient. Once I started working my regular job, I also was able to relate to my patients. Maybe it was the fact that I overcame the heartache of losing my mom to breast cancer.
I always tell my patients they are doing a good job, even if there are minimal gains. I encourage them, and give them hope. When patients need to increase range of motion, I tell them to relax and let me do the work. I always thought relaxing helps relieve some of the pain. Well, let me tell you, I was never on the receiving side of therapy. Never in a million years did I realize how absolutely difficult it is to relax when there is intense pain involved. I learned the hard way.
After 14 years of working as an OT, I hurt my back at work helping a patient scoot back in her wheelchair. My back popped, and I was unable to stand up straight. I drove home in excruciating pain, figuring I would recover quickly at home doing some exercises I learned along the way from working alongside physical therapists. Honestly, I did not want to admit my dad was right that I would hurt my back. After a few days of no improvement, I decided I better see a doctor. I was prescribed muscle relaxers, pain medication, and Physical Therapy. Since I am not one to take medicine, I refused the medicine, but went to PT. After about a month, at a follow up visit at the doctor, she told me she could not keep me off work for more than a month because I did not break a bone. I thought it was awful how she worded her explanation. I returned to work in pain. I had a rough time. I was sent back to work considered “light duty.” How are you supposed to be a good OT on “light duty?” I felt like a horrible therapist in the next few months, relying on my co-workers to lift and transfer patients. Finally, I returned to my normal duties, but never was quite the same in my back. Little did I know what was yet to come.
My back injury occurred in September of 2015. June of 2016, I was camping with my family, and while riding bike, fell off my bike. My left leg went straight down into a ditch. All my body weight went onto my left leg, and it broke. I could tell immediately. My husband scooped me out of the ditch and sat me on a rock and went to get the truck to rush me to the emergency room. In the ER, I received x-rays with confirmation I had a tibial plateau fracture. I was given ice, a knee immobilizer, crutches, and a referral to an orthopeadic doctor. I asked if I would need surgery, but was told I needed to see the ortho doctor to determine options. I left the ER with no real instruction on how to get into a vehicle, how to get into my home with steps, or any questions of if I could even function in my home. Luckily, that is what I do for a living. I already had plenty of equipment at home from when I helped my Grammy recover from spinal surgery. I was left to wonder, however, how would other people function in my situation? Would they know how to enter a vehicle? Would they know how to get in their house with steps? What if there were no railings? What about getting a shower? What about using the toilet? It certainly is different functioning with a knee immobilizer and inability to bear weight on one leg. I was fortunate enough to already have toilet rails, a tub bench with a walk in shower, hand held shower, wheelchair, bedside commode, and walker.
Fortunately, I knew how to get in my truck. I did have a very hard time with the steps at home though. I am not a PT, so I was not really sure how to get into my house with crutches and use of only one leg. My husband essentially helped me lift my good leg up and I hopped up the steps. With a leg immobilizer, it was not an easy task at all. Luckily, I only weigh about 110 pounds, so he was able to help me easily. Once inside, I basically have first floor set up, with a bathroom and a bed downstairs, but the hospital never bothered to care about those details. I was sent home with a broken leg and left to figure out how to function for myself.
Seeing the ortho doctor was not much help. He needed me to get a cat scan to determine if he could even perform the surgery. Based on the x-ray
I finally saw a specialist Tuesday of the next week. They tried to get me in on Wednesday for surgery, but could not get me in until Thursday. I needed to function for over a week with a broken leg. Still, nobody asked how I was functioning at home.
I finally had surgery on Thursday. Once it was time for discharge from the hospital on Saturday, finally, I was asked about my home set up. I of course already had everything I needed, but still, I thought about the people who would not have know about the equipment available to them. I was finally sent home with home health ordered.
Sorry to say, but I declined OT. I already knew what to do. I was already giving myself a shower with a tub bench and using a reacher to get dressed. I needed PT. Again. In comes pain. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the pain would be so horrible. This time around, I could not refuse pain medication. I had no idea how much a broken bone and surgery hurt. I also did not realize how difficult it is to relax during range of motion. Even though I have always been able to encourage patients to participate, I was having a hard time trying to convince myself to move my leg despite my pain. Encouraging others is much easier. I have a new appreciation of how hard therapy is on my patients. I apologize to all my former patients. Of course I know that I helped them recover too. No pain, no gain, right? I now realize that is much easier said than done.
I never really thought about how hard it is for patients to wait for help to use the restroom, or how very uncomfortable it is to sit in a wheelchair for long periods of time. I cannot begin to tell you how restless I have been sitting in a wheelchair on the other side of therapy. I tell my patients to take their time. Do not hurry. Well, it sure is difficult to take your time. Waiting to heal is the hardest part. It feels like a never ending cycle of pain and waiting.
I keep saying that my experience as an OT receiving PT should count toward continuing education credits. Being on the other side of therapy has been the most eye opening experience I could have ever received. I have new found insight to offer my patients, which will hopefully inspire them to keep trying. I also see the need to educate others on the importance and necessity of Occupational Therapy services. There is more work to be done in education and promotion of OT in areas I never thought of before. Please take a moment to think about your own home set up. Would you be able to function with a broken leg? Would you know what to do in my situation? If you are in need of help, ask about Occupational Therapy. Even if your healthcare providers do not suggest it, please request OT.
I began writing books in 2015. I have several children's books published about
The Underground Toy Society.
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