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Occupational Therapy - Helping Heal

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Whether carrying both my twin sister and I on his shoulders at the same time, lifting heavy parts while fixing cars, or losing his wife of 40 plus years, my grandpa has always been one of the strongest people I know. He also happens to be my favorite person to get coffee with, T.V. watching buddy and one of my very best friends. He devoted many hours to helping me learn to read, teaching me how to make oatmeal cookies, watching my sister and I perfect our dance routine to Shania Twain songs and raising me into the person I am today. So when I received the call that he had experienced a stroke, my heart ached.

As many know, CVA’s can affect each person differently. My grandpa’s CVA resulted in residual right hand weakness and his speech/processing was affected. Although not always noticeable to those who didn’t know him well, I noticed the changes. Instead of hour long phone calls, our phone calls became maybe 15 minutes long at the most and the same for our coffee visits as he told fewer stories. Instead, he spent most of our visit listening because he had difficulty finding words to speak. Initially, he wasn’t able to work in his shop on cars and motorcycles - something he had always enjoyed doing for himself and for others. In a way, part of his identity seemed to have changed.

As an Occupational Therapy student at the time, I had learned that using his affected hand in functional activities every day could help him regain function. With encouragement, he used his right hand throughout the day more often. Now that he has regained more function in his right hand, he is back to working in the shop and he is back to doing what he loves. He visits regularly with his friends at McDonalds and struggles less with finding words.

It was this progression, going from sad to feeling like himself again, which emphasized the specialness of our profession as Occupational Therapists. We have this unique opportunity to help others find meaning in areas of their lives that they have lost due to illness or injury. As an Acute Care Occupational Therapist, I don’t have the privilege of seeing patients return to doing what they love at home. However, I do have the privilege of seeing them take small steps toward that goal. Being able to put on a shirt, brush their teeth or even get out of bed are all activities of daily living that are preliminary to doing what they love at home. Whether it’s returning to horse riding, playing with a grand child, taking care of a pet or bowling, our patients all have activities that give them purpose. What an absolute privilege it is to be a part of that process and to be with our patients as they take those first steps. I hope to see that same joy my grandpa experiences from doing what he loves, in all patients. I’m incredibly thankful that acute care OT allows me to play a role in that.

My name is Nichole Walton. I am from Buhler, Kansas and currently live in Buhler. I graduated from the University of Kansas Medical Center with a masters degree in Occupational Therapy in 2018. I have been working at HRMC for almost one year, as an Occupational Therapist. I love my job and the people I work with!

To find out more about occupational therapy or other services provided by our Rehabilitation Services team contact 620-665-2104.