In an almost sadistic twist of fate, I broke my ankle the year following the death of my husband. I was set to take my daughters to church (so much for being a good parent) on an overcast day, in that dreary month of March. Spring hadn’t erupted yet and there were patches of snow dotting the yard, remnants of a last storm.
I marshaled my daughters out the door, to the car, and as I approached the driver’s side, I slipped on one of those hitherto mentioned patches. My leg shot out from under me and I went down, splayed out, in the mud of a half-thawed front lawn. I heard the crack and I feared the consequences. When I tried to move my foot, the pain kicked in, and I cried out.
I directed my older daughter to call 911, to get me help. Almost immediately, they arrived. The medics lifted me up on a stretcher, deposited me in the van, and off we went, to the hospital where I discovered I’d suffered a particularly-nasty ankle break. The upshot? This single working Mom could put no weight on my foot for 8 weeks. I was basically immobilized.
I took a medical leave from school and considered the consequences: My older daughter wasn’t old enough to drive, and no family members lived nearby. That meant we relied for support on friends who dropped by, periodically, to check on us, or who graciously dropped off meals.
At the end of the 8-week convalescent period, I went back to my job, as teacher in a junior high. First, I dropped my girls off at their respective locations and then proceeded to my school, where I parked, limped along serpentine corridors and hobbled up stairs, to the second floor, to begin my school day that consisted of teaching 5 classes, with another period of supervision (study hall, cafeteria duty…whatever.)
Unbelievably, upon return to my teaching job, following that long-term sick leave, office staff assigned me to cover an absent teacher’s class, during my one unassigned period. That meant I worked 7 periods straight, with only a 20-minute break the entire day (for lunch).
There was no ease-in period. My problem? I was weak from weeks of sitting and had little stamina or strength. I had had no physical therapy throughout the process and went from sidelined patient to full-fledged employee, drop-kicked into full demands of a work scenario.
At the end of the day, I struggled out, wondering how I could continue.
Some years later I had foot surgery and the follow-up gave me a chance to see the difference physical therapy makes in one’s transition to normal life, following an operation or a procedure. Under the guidance of a physical therapist, I worked at keeping muscles in prime working order. My strength built over time, so that when I returned to work, I was fully up to the task.
But it was in the weeks following my husband’s accident that I got to see the really important value of these professionals.
Over a several week period, they guided a thoroughly-broken individual in strength training, helping him rebuild his motor skills. Because he suffered neurological impairment (due to the anoxic episode), occupational therapists were critical in assessing his cognitive skills, helping him regain abilities in this quarter, too. I wouldn’t have known how to do any of that.
But originally, we weren’t supposed to get that help, for the hospital was merely going to discharge him to my care. Only when they learned I’d not be up to the task (I informed them I have MS), did they alter his post-hospital care plan and assign him to a rehabilitation facility.
Why else did I seek such? I knew that if I took him home, right from the hospital (where he’d suffered the code blue (“died”), I’d never fully realize the damage he’d suffered. I’d be responsible, too, from that point on, as to what happened, in future.
I wanted an independent source to assess how much damage he’d suffered. I also wanted direction as to how much he could improve in the recovery process.
When I saw how very broken he was in those first meetings with therapists, I knew he had a long road back. Over the next months, he continued making strides in his recovery, but, in my estimation, excellent physical and occupational therapists were the all-important bridge back to normalcy, following horrific circumstances that robbed my husband of his ability to “do life.”
***I’ve just begun, too, going to Rhode Island Rehab, in East Greenwich, R.I., where a young woman skilled with MS patients helps me through a current episode. Other aspect of this facility I like so much? While there, patients can use Absolute Fitness’s large, salt-water pool next door. Being buoyant through stretching exercises makes a huge difference..I’ll look for a similar facility when we soon go to Asheville.
Now, how about you? Use the skills of a physical therapist and does it make a difference?