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  • Patient's Kind Act Inspires Occupational Therapist

    by Raphielle Chynoweth

    Occasionally, I treat patients for occupational therapy (OT) needs that remind me of my sisters, both of whom have mental and physical limitations, and I recently worked with a woman who reminded me of them.

    She has both physical and mental disabilities and was living in a group home, but due to changes in her medical condition she could no longer return there. A nurse informed me that the patient enjoys crocheting and could use this activity to keep calm when needed. I located some crochet hooks and yarn that we had on hand and provided them to her. She was so happy to receive these items. She immediately moved from lying in bed to sitting at the edge of the bed as she busily separated the tangled yarn. She eventually transferred from the bed to sit in the bedside chair and was quite content. Then the patient mentioned that it would be easier to crochet if she had reading glasses. We have reading glasses also available in the clinic, and she knew her prescription. I later found a pair, which would work sufficiently so that she would be able crochet and also order off the menu with greater ease and independence.

    I returned the next day to drop off the glasses, and she was at the edge of the bed, having just completed a shower with nursing. I worked with the patient to get her socks on safely because she has some impaired balance and weakness. While I was working with this patient, another therapist working with a different patient approached me to ask if OT might have any hair detangler for a “serious case of hospital bed head and snarls.” I did not know of any detangler readily available, so the therapist returned to working with her patient and I to mine.

    Suddenly, the woman stood up from the edge of the bed and started to clumsily walk around her bed, hanging on to the bed rail. She is a bit unsteady on her feet, so I provided stand-by assistance for safety while asking her what she was doing and reminding her to be safe. She started opening closets and drawers and rummaging around but couldn’t locate what she wanted so she returned to sitting on the edge of the bed simply saying, “I couldn’t find it.”

    I asked again what she was looking for, and she said, “I thought I had detangler, but I couldn’t find it.”

    I asked her if she would mind if I looked, and she said, “OK.” I located a bottle of detangler in a drawer and asked if she was ok if the other patient used her detangler.

    She said, “Yes, as long as they don’t return an empty bottle!” I thought that was very funny.

    I thanked her profusely and told her how sweet and thoughtful I thought this was of her. I took the detangler to the other therapist and patient, who were also very grateful for this other patient’s kindness and thoughtful gesture.

    I was so touched that this woman overheard the other therapist asking me for hair detangler, and, on her own, tried to find something she knew she had to share it with another patient in the hospital. It is one of the sweetest and most selfless acts I have ever encountered.

    I knew there were several reasons why this woman reminded me of my sisters, both in her mental and physical abilities, but now I had even more reasons: kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness, initiative to help another.

    I am blessed and privileged to have received the education and training I have to work with people in the hospital. This whole exchange touched my heart in ways I can’t fully express, but the memory of this woman offering her detangler to another patient in need will stay with me forever.

    I know that very often, people do not understand occupational therapy and what we do. We are constantly thought of as physical therapists and while the professions are similar, I feel this story demonstrates occupational therapy in action:

    1) We use functional activities to increase motor and cognitive skills based on patients need, such as crocheting in this case

    2) We make sure people are safe with self care skills and that their environment maximizes independence. I helped the patient safely locate a bottle of detangler in a small, crowded hospital room with many obstacles in a disorganized drawer.

    3) We provide assisting equipment to increase independence with self care skills and even reading glasses!

    If you are feeling stuck in the hospital, can’t read the menu to order your meals, or need other assistance, call the occupational therapist. That’s why we’re here.

    Raphielle Chynoweth, OTR/L works at Good Samaritan Hospital. For more information about growing up with a disabled sibling and the Sibshop program available at Children’s Therapy Unit of Good Samaritan Hospital, please see the Sibling Support Project website at www.siblingsupport.org or contact Brandi Livengood, OTR/L; Good Samaritan Sibshop Coordinator, at 253-697-5225.

    Posted on Feb 9, 2012 in