By Blair Cocking, OT/L, CHT, CLT, CMH Occupational Therapist
I am Blair Cocking, a CMH occupational therapist specializing in hand and lymphedema therapy. I have worked at CMH for three years. Occupational therapy is a profession that is patient-centered. We look at the whole person and what is important to them — body, mind and spirit. Our treatment’s starting point is working toward patient-designated goals. Goals essential to living a full life are where we start.
As we celebrate Occupational Therapy Month, I would like to recall my work with a retired teacher who regained her ability to write after surgery. On our first meeting, the patient declared in the most sobering and dark words, “Since the surgery, I can’t write. If I can’t write, I cannot live. I will not live if I cannot write.”
The patient unfortunately did not have a successful shoulder surgery. The surgery disrupted the nerve controlling her hand and arm. When I first saw her, she did not have movement of the arm or hand. Her main desire for occupational therapy treatment was to gain as much motion as possible as she waited for the second repair of her shoulder.
As the patient and I began our work, I knew making a splint was important to both support the hand and promote finger motion. With the splint, she could use a fork and at least crudely print her name. There were a series of splints used with her to protect the weak hand muscles. She wore them while sleeping and resting her hand. The splint that gave her the use of her hand greatly lifted her spirits. Fortunately, the emotional, unsettling experience of facing her limitations began to decrease. Using education and exercises, developing a trusting relationship, and giving her positive-outcome tasks buoyed her through this long process. This is what makes my job so rewarding, to see someone move from hopelessness and return to the life they love.
Occupational therapists are the link between surgeons and the patient. After working with that patient, I eventually guided her in making the choice to have her final shoulder surgery repair. One important turning point was the referral to a surgeon who specialized in shoulder repairs. After the repair, we spent three months gaining back the use of her arm and hand. She worked hard, and I worked hard at guiding her through the things she loved to do, such as writing.
Every session thereafter, she expressed her unending gratitude for the returned use of her hand. She eventually authored a book about the experience.
This is why I am an occupational therapist. I can help make the impossible possible.
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