Category Archives: Work

Thank you for the postcard!

Kingdom Comes

When anger fills your heart
When in your pain and hurt
You find the strength to stop
You bless instead of curse

When doubting floods your soul
Though all things feel unjust
You open up your heart
You find a way to trust

That’s a little stone that’s a little mortar
That’s a little seed that’s a little water
In the hearts of the sons and the daughters
The kingdom’s coming

When fear engulfs your mind
Says you protect your own
You still extend your hand
You open up your home

When sorrow fills your life
When in your grief and pain
You choose again to rise
You choose to bless the name

That’s a little stone that’s a little mortar
That’s a little seed that’s a little water
In the hearts of the sons and the daughters
The kingdom’s coming

In the mundane tasks of living
In the pouring out and giving
In the waking up and trying
In the laying down and dying

That’s a little stone that’s a little mortar
That’s a little seed that’s a little water
In the hearts of the sons and the daughters
The kingdom’s coming

Sara Groves

We undervalue an encouraging word. Not in the getting, of course, but in the giving. How many times have you not even said anything, because there was nothing you could do? But an encouraging word is like a cup of cold water.

Someone thanked me today for a postcard. I stared at her stupidly, not remembering. . .and then, from the depths of mundane moments not worth recording, I managed to pull a brief flash of a picture. Generic, pre-printed, commercial post card with a form message on it. A blank space for a name, the secretary’s neat handwriting filling in names of patients no longer being treated. The few minutes found to look over the cards and scribble in brief messages to anyone I recognized. A sentence, maybe two. What did I even say? “Keep up the good work”? I don’t remember.

“Thanks for the postcard. It was very encouraging!”

She got cancer and had her lower leg amputated off.

I sent her a postcard.

What difference does it make?

Family Business

So my little family-owned physical therapy company decided to have their company holiday meal in January. People were just too busy and too stressed in December. They sent out their invitations to three of their offices (plus the one I work at) to come join them at a local steak house.

And when I say family owned, I mean the husband and wife jointly own the company and both sat in the middle of the U-shaped seating arrangement; he had his arm about the back of her chair nearly the whole time, and the conversation frequently veered into the territory of what was so great about the Green Bay Packers. He was thoroughly picked on by his employees when he had to borrow his wife’s glasses to read the bill, and pictures were taken and threatened to be put on Facebook.

Everyone touts the all-American, small town family businesses, but so few actually get the pleasure of being part of one.

Is there something wrong with my head?

So there is this guy and his son coming in for therapy right now. They both got run over by a rototiller. The son got the tines chewing up his calf, and the dad got the frame smashed into his lower leg, breaking it. (The leg, not the frame.)

So. . . .is there something wrong with me that all I want to do is ask them “Forward-rotating or rear-rotating? What brand? What model? Were you happy with it before it ran you over?”

I really think the patients would be perfectly happy to discuss such details, but I think I would get some really funny looks from the therapists. Which might make it all that much more fun to do, come to think of it.

On the downside, one of the therapists wants to play match-making between me and the son. . .so maybe asking about the machine that ran him over would only be used as ammo to her cause. Hm.

Find Out

So today I found myself walking into the room of a patient who’d been cleared by the nurse to have physical therapy. Only I found the patient shaking and shivering violently from head to toe, pale, with bluish lips, asking for another blanket. So I grabbed two, and then asked him how long he’d been this way and if his nurse knew about it (about half an hour, and no). So I found myself asking for the nurse to come in, and I found her face to look rather surprised, confused and concerned. I found that his forehead was hot and dry, and that the nurse was having a hard time taking his blood pressure because of his shaking, and his O2 was not as high as it should be. And then I found another more experienced nurse had been fetched in, and that they were agreeing to call some sort of code. As I was led away from the room, I found doctors with defibrillators and respiratory doctors and all sorts of people making a deliberate walk toward the room.

And then we went to a different floor, because rehab doesn’t work with people like that. And then I found myself crying and being led by two therapists into a room to be myself until I could pull myself together, and then I found out that I still see my grandfather in every dying man I see.

And sometimes I wonder how long it will be that way.

Today we went to the ER

Today, instead of taking one of our patients to the ER, the ER asked us to come evaluate one of their patients.

This was unfortunate for a few reasons. One, they paged the inpatient PT, by name, 20 minutes after she was supposed to be gone. She was just finishing up paperwork, but she’d been at the hospital since 7:00 am, and she wanted to go home. Two, it really wasn’t an appropriate situation to need a PT for.

She went. She grabbed a gait belt and me, and I grabbed a walker. We get to the ER, and it is just packed. She manages to find the chart for the patient in question, but we can’t seem to find the patient’s nurse. While trying to stand out of the way and (at the same time) find the proper nurse, we overhear one harried person telling someone else on the phone that their waiting room is full and they just had 9 ambulances in the last 10 minutes, and can we please find an open bed to admit this person into? The doctors are trying to admit or send home patients as fast as possible to make room for new patients. In general, it’s pretty much a mad house.

We finally get the right nurse, who has nothing to tell us that wasn’t on the chart. We find the patient. We question the patient. The patient is not the most stellar at getting the idea of what we’re trying to figure out, or we might not have been surprised when he needed max assist to even sit up in bed. It made his heart-rate spike some 30 or 40 beats just to do that. Standing was out of the question. Walking was out of the question. No, this person was not functionally able to return home, or to do anything else.

We find the doctor in question, and inform him of our findings. He thanks us, and apologizes for making us go through all that, but. . .something about following the rules or something.

So the bare facts boil down to, as far as I can tell, this:

ER gets totally, suddenly and urgently swamped.

Doctors cannot be in enough places at once to clear out beds for incoming patients.

Doctor reads symptoms off of chart, and realizes that if PT says the patient shouldn’t go home, he can admit the patient. This will use less of his precious time, but it is, indeed, inappropriate. This did not require the training of a PT.

Already-should-have-been-at-home PT does come down to evaluate the patient, and everyone is very polite and nice and thankful.

One more spot in the ER is opened up for ambulance deliveries, and Dr. has more time to try to get other patients taken care of.

Now, for the PT who already should have been home, we thoroughly understand her frustration at being kept even later for something that did not require her skills. But why does the entire rest of the PT department have to get so disgusted by such an “inappropriate” request from ER?

No one denies that the cause was probably being absurdly swamped at the ER. It remains “inappropriate” and “they could have done that (checked out the patient themselves)”, and “they know better (than to call PT for something like that)”.

Yes, but. . .I know it’s inappropriate. I get that. But how about understandable? How about human?

Even the PT that had to go down was pleased with how nicely she’d been treated and impressed by how crazy-full-busy it was. And no one in the PT department hesitated to offer if there was something they could do to help the already-should-have-been-home PT leave. So why is so mean-awful-nasty that they just lent a (technically uncalled for) hand for an exceedingly swamped Emergency Room? They were nice; they were over-loaded. It seems like they pretty much knew they were asking for a favor.

My brother would say this is the kind of mindset that lets females get over-worked in the workplace. I would like to think that there is a difference between occasionally lending a hand during extenuating circumstances and allowing oneself to get walked all over.

I don’t think there is enough money in the world to get me to work in an ER. That’s because I’m pretty sure I’d die of the stress in about a week and half. Nothing akin to this from the ER has happened before in the year or so that I’ve been there. I just don’t quite understand the tightfistedness of the PT department in not allowing this one favor, graciously.

Love

One of the things that I love about my job is that somehow it always keeps driving me back to God. That sounds like a cliche, but I suppose all cliches have a very true beginning. Sometimes it’s only in small ways that it redirects me, but it redirects me in a way that, say, school, does not. School very rapidly seems to become about me, me, me. Work does not.

Yesterday, not for the first time, we were doing physical therapy with someone who had just had hip surgery. (Not so typically, he was 97 years old.) He epitomized all the typical responses:

Dread. “I can’t say I’m happy to see you.”

Fear. “It doesn’t hurt right now; it only hurts when I move.”

Pain. Oh, yeah, it hurts when you move.

Effort. Deep breath. A set face.

Frustration and Sadness. “It’s hell to get old.” and “I don’t understand why we’re doing this. Just shoot me now instead of going through all of this.”

Some Humor, but sadly, that’s atypical, not typical.

And finally, Relief, Satisfaction, and Feeling Better.

Yes, truly. It’s such a painful, difficult ordeal to go through. I would feel like a complete cad being party to such an act, if it wasn’t for the fact that they invariably feel much better afterwards. It does feel good to have stood up. It does feel good to have walked a difficult 8 feet. It feels good to be sitting upright instead of slouched in bed. It feels good to have woken up your circulation system and worked some stiffness out of your joints. They are left feeling Exhausted, but Hopeful.

And to my mind, that’s a good illustration of what God often does in our lives. We don’t want it; it hurts; we’re afraid; we’re unhappy; it’s hard. It looks like there is no way we can make it that far, and that our limbs will give out on us. Like the patient who can’t see behind himself and his hearing isn’t too good so he can’t pick up on our comments, we don’t seem to realize that there is a chair pulled up behind us. When we’ve utterly run out, all we have to do is sit down.

At the end of it all, we’re Exhausted, Relieved, Satisfied, Hopeful and Feeling Better. We didn’t think we’d ever wind up there. But He did.

Learning is FUN! (Said in your best Miss Sunshine voice)

It’s funny; even though I can’t help but be nervous about my clinicals (which feel like they will be one long, extended examination to see if you’ve really learned anything), I love it when I can start learning under the PTs at work. It feels like the way learning ought to be done.

It was very slow at work, so I got to do much more in the way of observing—and not just passively so. The PTs were willing to actively engage me in trying notice things, and to explain what was going on. Most patients not only do not mind me sitting in, they actually appreciate hearing more explained. I don’t know how much they can easily follow, since the PTs do not hesitate to speak to me in latin, but it’s nice to not feel like an intrusion.

JA threatened not to let me watch one of her evaluations, on account of me being a “nerd”, namely, after the last time she let me sit in on one of her evals, I sent her an email with a bunch of questions. I don’t think—I know she didn’t ever dream someone would do such a thing. Since she expected it this time, I couldn’t let her down. She explained the gait abnormality someone had, and gave me a name for it, and then dared me to look it up when I got home, so I had to.

She also let me borrow two of her college textbooks to keep me busy. I think she’s a little bit concerned I’m going to read them both cover to cover over the weekend. It would be fun to see her eyes bug out if I did, but I think they’re a bit long for me to actually manage it.

Babies

Cleaning lady walks up to an obviously pregnant Massage Therapist, and stares at her stomach.

CLEANING LADY: [Demands] Okay, what is it?

MASSAGE THERAPIST: Puts hands on belly. [Pleased and proud] It’s an artichoke!

ME: Oh, you’re so lucky!!!

She later admitted it was a baby boy.

In our second second scene, a Physical Therapist is relating a story about her baby boy. Having been born both the right gender and at the right time of year, he got to play “Baby Jesus” in her Church’s nativity scene. Apparently, the church has the tradition of someone dressed up as Santa Claus walking up one side aisle, kneeling and saying a quick silent prayer, and then quietly walking down the other side aisle. This year, to her distress, they changed the program without telling her. Santa instead decided to PICK UP HER BABY and CARRY IT over to the priest, and she was sure he (Santa) was going to DROP HIM.

I tried so hard not to laugh at her. It was her first baby, and there is that whole mother-protective thing, and let’s just face it, we women generally know better than to trust breakable things to men, who generally destroy whatever it is that’s in their hands before they even become consciously aware of what they’ve actually picked up. But really, any guy who willingly goes over and picks up a baby probably has at least one kid himself; guys who do not have kids (or younger siblings) generally stay far, far, faaaar away from breakable little babies. The guy in the Santa suit was not going to drop her baby.

Then in our third scene—it’s the sad one—we have a general discussion about religion. At least one therapist confessed to have taken her son to be baptized, but when the priest/pastor/officiator/whomever asked her the formal question of why she was bringing her child to him, she had no particular idea. The other therapist had warning of such difficult questions, and she got to look up the proper answers in a book. But then her priest asked her the sticky question of, since you’ve named your child with a biblical name, do you know who the biblical figure was? Neither she nor her husband could come up with an answer. When they got home, they looked it up in a children’s version of Bible stories, but either she misunderstood/misremembered, or the story book messed things up.

Today, someone punched me in the nose.

Not really. Today, JA pretended to punch me in the nose. Upon reflection later on in the day, I wished I had cried out, snapped my head back, grabbed my nose and turned away. It would have been very amusing seeing how alarmed I could get her, seeing as she never had any intention of actually making contact. Instead, I stood there stupidly, wondering if she had any idea how dangerous that was.

Not for me. I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m always ready for a mock-punch. For her. Because she’s used to being the crazy one, used to getting reactions out of other people. It’s her game; she doesn’t expect other people to play it. She wouldn’t, for instance, be the slightest bit ready for me to block her incoming hand mid-way and make my own mock-thrust toward her abdomen. Not only would she be caught completely off guard, she probably wouldn’t know what to make of it. What she doesn’t realize is that I do this with my brothers all the time, and that this is as natural for me to do with them as it is to say good-morning. Sometimes I say good-morning at the same time as taking a whack at them, come to think of it. (Or responding to their incoming hand, if they happen to beat me to it.)

She’s never ready.

She’s not ready, when she complains for the third time (the first two times being responded with sympathetic noises) that she really doesn’t want to see this next patient and I tell her, “What do you want me to do about it? Buy you a balloon?”

She’s not ready, when she tries to get a rise out of me when I’m leaving to go home and she demands to know where I think I’m going, and I tell her “California. It’s warmer there.”

She’s not ready, when she sees me leaning over to clean an exercise ball, and prepares to bump into me on the way past. . .only I see her coming and deliberately bump into her first. (You should have seen how big her eyes got!)

Oh, she bounces back. But before she can get out her smart-aleck response, there is always a fleeting few seconds of shock on her face, unaccustomed to having to actually parry. No one else seems to know the proper response to her utter nonsense, and she’s grown used to catching people off guard, leaving people stammering for words, and generally causing people to throw up their hands and say “Heaven help me!” It amuses her endlessly.

I believe what she has yet to fully comprehend is that I have nine brothers. It is a fact that she technically knows, but does not yet realize it’s implications. (Among other things, it’s probably not wise for her to dish out to me what she is not prepared to have automatically returned in kind.) For my part, I agree with her; it is fun catching people off their guard.