This story seems to capture an often bypassed view of our profession.
Stopping by to set up a time for therapy, I noticed the nurse was in his room. Though he lay resting peacefully in bed, she shared that he had just fallen. He was on his hands and knees...trying to reach his walker when she found him. Apparently, he had fallen trying to follow his wife who had walked out of the room for an activity this afternoon. Luckily, he was not hurt. He had only two small lacerations on his head, barely bleeding.
Yet as I checked in later with the nurse, before beginning my therapy session, she shared he would soon be going to the emergency room. The triage nurse from the patient’s doctor’s office stated he needed to go to the ER to ensure that he was not having internal bleeding as a complication from being on coumadin (a blood thinner).
I shared this news with him...You are going to be taken to the emergency room.
His eyes flooded with a bit of fear, a tinge of anxiety and I hated to see it.
“I’ll be there for days,” he slurred (only due to the effects of a stroke he had suffered just weeks ago). “They don’t know piddly (referring to the hospital).”
I did my best to comfort and prepare him. I encouraged him to ask, if not demand, OT and PT (and speech therapy) as soon as possible so that he could continue with the strength he was gaining. Because his speech was slurred I was concerned the hospital staff may dismiss him. He asked that I write down my suggestions. Instead I wrote a note, as if to the nurse from him. He folded up the note and put it in his pocket for easy use...”Please get me orders for OT, PT and speech therapy asap so that I can continue strengthening and ambulating which I was doing while at ____. I need assistance for dressing, toileting and grooming. I am NPO. I love to read.”
I sensed such sadness in the room as I prepared to exit. I knew the paramedics where at the front desk. I asked before I left, “Would you like a hug?”
“I want one from her, but it’s too much trouble” he slurred, referring to his wife who sat on the other side of the room.
To an OT, it is never too much trouble to assist one loved one into the arms of another or to meet the lips of another loved one...never. And with that, I assisted his wife to his bedside. There they synced up as a unit, embracing each other with a mature love that stills needs kisses, but can pierce through in a glance... “Who knows when I’ll see you next,” I heard him say rather clearly. And then they kissed.
I escorted her back to her chair on the other side of the room as the paramedics entered. I fought back tears as I typed my notes for the day.
Finally behind the wheel and homeward bound, I lost it. A tidal wave of emotion crashed out from within me...sadness for this gentleman and his lover, disappointment in the health care system (that this gentleman was untrusting of the very service that can potentially save lives), soft amazement in the fragility of life and grief about merely seeing a man and patient who have become a dear friend encounter suffering.
Needless to say, it was a night that I also offer gratitude to yoga for its assistance with stress relief, acceptance, and my own self care after an emotional day.