Friday, December 10, 2010

Feel, Breathe, and Live with GRATITUDE

I had a rough and emotionally draining week at work. We're talking cry at least twice a day before, after, or during treatment kind of week. Aside from saying goodbye to patients and their families in preparation for starting a new job, I had several tough, emotional sessions with patients. The conversations and moments have weighed heavy on my heart, leaving me feeling a little helpless...wishing there was more I could do and feeling guilty that there isn't. Here's just two of their stories...

I had to make the daunting decision to discharge a patient from therapy since no change had occurred in her arm, affected by a stroke, after several weeks of rehab. Who am I to tell someone that I believe their arm is permanently paralyzed and that there's nothing I can do about it? Who am I to strip someone of the hope they are clinging to that one day, they'll see their finger flicker or their hand move? I'm not God. I do believe in miracles and I pray that that person has not given up hope. But waiting for miracles is not medically reimbursed, so if progress is not shown, I have to discharge. I wanted to fix her and felt terrible that I wasn't capable. I was heartbroken and I cried on the way there. My heart was pounding with nerves and I held back the emotion once I arrived.

The patient sat in her wheelchair, gazing out the window into her front yard.
"Oh my, look at all these leaves," she said.
The patient's daughter replied, "The boys are coming over this afternoon. You can tell them to get the yard raked for you. Uughh. I sure can't be raking leaves. That's one thing I can't stand is yard work!"

"I know and raking leaves is the worst" I said. We laughed. (I have a distaste for that particular yard chore).

"I would do it," the patient spoke up seriously.
"I would get out there and do it if I could.
And...I would love every minute of it..." she trailed off as she looked out the window.

We both grew quiet and just nodded. "I know you would." I said.

The moment hit me like a ton of bricks and continued to soak in the rest of the day.
I haven't stopped thinking about it since.

I evaluated another patient who had suffered a stroke with hemi-paresis at the very end of one day. She sat in her chair in a back room, while the grandkids ran around rambunctiously in the living room, laughing, yelling, and tagging each other.

"Did you finish your homework?" the patient's daughter asked. "You know yall can't play until you finish your homework."
"Yeeesss," the kids answered.

After assessing, I asked the same question every OT asks during an eval.
"What do you want to be able to do again?"
Typical replies include, dress myself, take a shower without help, fix my own hair, cook a meal for my family, etc.
We need to know what is most important to the patient so we can work on that in therapy. We need to know what we're striving for and what motivates them.

In slow, slurred words she replied, "I want to... be able with my kids again..."
She immediately broke down.

"I want to run! I want to chase them and play with them and...just...BE with them again," she sobbed. I can't even think about it without getting emotional. I watched her shake her head with sadness that she was missing out on her grandchildren's lives. I consoled her as best I could and assured her that we would do everything that was possible to get her back to playing with her kids. The daughter and aide walked in the room after hearing her cries and I explained what had gotten her so upset.

"Aaooww you're gon' be able to honey!" they said. "God works miracles everyday. Pretty soon you're gonna be runnin' circles around those boys, I tell ya. Yeah, you're gon' get there."

By the time I left her house it was past dark, but I just couldn't bear to leave.
It's just such a sad situation to see someone locked inside their body. A body that won't do what they tell it to and can't do all the things it used to. With one whole side (or both) of your body unable to move, you must feel trapped. And frustrated. Maybe helpless?

How many times today did we drive somewhere in our cars, but also gripe that the person in front of us was driving too slow? Or throw wet clothes into the dryer without even thinking about our arms moving, and complain "How do the clothes pile up so stinkin' fast!?"

We are blessed beyond measure to be ABLE. To be CAPABLE of doing so many things.
I made a sign for my laundry room that says "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." Ecclesiastes 9:10. This reminds me that however annoying or frustrating the task may be, I should do it to the best of my ability, and be grateful that I am ABLE.

I am especially saddened as Christmas approaches. I think of how different the holiday season will be for the people I have been working with. They have the will and the want to do so many things and just are not able.

We all KNOW to not take things for granted. We KNOW to be grateful for what we have. But it's experiencing moments like these that make me truly feel, breath, and live with GRATITUDE.

I am forever grateful to these people for what they have given me. Through their struggles, I have learned to appreciate and enjoy even the most frustrating of moments, and my life will be more pleasant because of it. I continue to think of and pray for these patients and I hope you will do the same. I also hope you will be conscious of how blessed you are in even the most bleak of situations, knowing that if one day you are no longer able, it is the simple joys of life you will miss the most.

With Hope and Love,

1 comment:

  1. Katie this is so touching! You are definitely doing what God had planned for you, touching lives daily and with a tender heart. Im so proud of you and I know your mom would be too! Love you to pieces!



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