Beth Recovers: How OT helped her regain independence
Beth is a young woman who suffered a major injury in a boating accident. As a student at UNM, her life was put on hold while she healed. She received occupational therapy services in a rehabilitation hospital. We thank her for sharing her experience with our OTNM interviewer this past spring.
OTNM:Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed about your experience with occupational therapy. Will you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I am currently a senior at UNM, I will be graduating with my business degree in May. I’m looking forward to it. Basically right now I’m just working hard to get that done. And then looking forward to starting my career in the business world and starting work somewhere to get some good experience and find out what I want to do as a career.
What are some things you like to do for fun in your free time?
I like to do crafting, creative things. I also really like to try to get exercise in fun ways whenever possible. Just really hang out with friends and be around people who make me happy. Enjoy the little things I guess.
Why did you seek OT services?
Last march, 2014, I went to Puerto Rico for spring break. I got into a boating accident while there and fractured my pelvis in several places. This left me unable to walk and do mostly everything. I sought OT services before returning home after my injury. I had to go and live with my parents for a few months while I healed and there were a lot of obstacles that I faced in their home including stairs. Just basic mobility stuff I had to relearn with my injury, because it was important for me to not put any weight on my left foot. So I just had to adapt everything that I did and OT helped me do that.
Can you give me an example of a barrier to participation you were facing in your living situation?
My whole living situation was completely turned upside down. I couldn’t walk like I said, or really do anything for myself in the beginning. So living wise, everything was changed, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t lay down. I couldn’t use the restroom on my own, I couldn’t shower on my own. Basically every aspect of my life was an obstacle at that point.
…and you weren’t able to live in your house?
Right, I had to move out of my apartment and move in with my parents. Luckily my mom was able to provide a lot of care for me during that time. It wasn’t an option for me to live my normal, independent life that I usually did- before my injury.
How was your participation in your education impacted?
At that time, it was the spring semester of my junior year. I was taking 6 classes, 18 credit hours. Spring break is in the middle of the semester so I was at a break point at that time, which was helpful. But after the injury I just had to take incompletes in all my classes, which basically paused them for the time being while I healed. Once I could focus more on school work and had more time and energy and motivation to do those things, I was able to complete my classes over the summer. Even some of them before the semester ended. It put me back a little bit but I was able to successfully stay on track. It was definitely a feat doing so. I mean I just laid in bed and did homework for days on end, trying to finish my classes. It really made it harder to finish them. I had to do a lot of work in a short amount of time to catch up.
I imagine not being able to walk made it hard to go to school.
Yeah I couldn’t go to school but luckily my professors were really sympathetic and understanding to my injury and the crazy accident I had gone through. They were really nice about it.
What about some barriers to your work?
I wasn’t able to work at all for three months. I wasn’t able to make money to support myself. I just didn’t have the capability of physically doing work, I didn’t really feel up to working physically and mentally for a long time after the accident. Still even to this day I still can’t do everything that I used to be able to do. I have to face a lot more pain. So work wise it definitely affected me a lot.
What about your leisure activities, how were those affected?
It was really hard to do anything fun. Besides going to the movies or doing something where I didn’t have to walk or move around. So I didn’t really have a lot of chances to do fun things and play. I was kind of confined in the bed and in the house. I looked forward to just going downstairs just for a little bit of a change.
For all the barriers that we’ve discussed how long would you say you were affected?
It took about two months to heal, so everything was dramatically affected for about two months. At that point I could start to do some more limited things. But I would say a total of three to four months. And even now, almost a year from the accident, somethings are still affected.
Will you describe a session that you had with your OT?
So I had the majority of my OT at an inpatient rehabilitation hospital with my OT named Kathy. And she was really great, she pushed me really hard to work hard to reach my goals and not give up. It was very hard to stay motivated at the time because I just felt like I was never going to get better. There was one day when she turned to less serious things and just helped me make macaroni and cheese in the kitchen. It was really fun because I really like mac and cheese. Also, it was a simple task that I hadn’t even thought about tackling yet. So it was a challenge but it was rewarding to be able to do something like that on my own. So I thought that was really interesting and it was just a really nice change of pace from what we had been doing during our appointments. So that was one appointment that really stood out to me. She just showed me how to safely do things and make sure I don’t injure myself in the kitchen; where to stand, what to hold on to, what not to hold on to. Just simple things like that. It was a big game changer for me I think.
What was the most meaningful goal your OT helped you to reach?
Tackling the fear of stairs. At my parents’ house to get to the bedroom and shower, and bathroom you have to go up the stairs. So that was something I obviously needed to face but it was terrifying for me. Just because I didn’t want to fall. It’s extremely challenging to balance and hop up the stairs on one leg. The whole thought of it just gave me really bad anxiety and made me really nervous and scared. She just really took that process slow with me and helped me tackle it in small increments. But not only that, she helped me a lot with sitting up in bed and just helping me do the little things by myself, like putting on my socks and brushing my teeth. Just those little things that gave met that taste of independence that was taken away from me. I think those little goals were some of the biggest. Just readjusting in bed by myself and sitting up, turning over on my side; just those little things were some of the biggest goals.
Anything else you would like to add?
I think one thing that has really stood out to me about my experience is that my OT wasn’t always easy on me. There were days where she really stood her ground and was tough on me; “you need to learn to do these things by yourself and this is why” and “you can do this.” She wasn’t always there to just make me feel better, sometimes she really pushed me. Sometimes, when I really didn’t want to be pushed, but I needed that at the time in order to get better.
Great, well thank you so much for sharing with us.