Tag Archives: occupational therapy

The Reality of Hope

Every day I work with individuals whose lives have been drastically changed by paralysis. My job is twofold: first, to provide innovative therapies to help promote recovery and, second, to inspire and motivate my patients to push through the difficult times–sometimes as the encouraging cheerleader, and other times the demanding coach.

In my job, I’ve come to realize that we’re each gifted with a unique set of skills and abilities that allow us to contribute to the world around us. If we’re lucky, perhaps we can even use those talents to inspire and motivate others. But when I started my career in the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger Institute, hoping to make a difference in the lives of my patients, I never expected that my patients would be the ones who constantly inspire and motivate me.

Brian Keefer is a patient whose strength, determination and genuine love for life inspire me in ways that are hard to put into words. In 2008, Brian was paralyzed from the neck down after a gymnastics flip gone awry. Soon after his injury, Brian and his family began making the 140-mile trip from to Kennedy Krieger every day for two weeks during his school breaks. Here, during bouts of intensive therapy, Brian spends five to six hours daily working with our team, all while maintaining a smile and exerting 100-percent effort.

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Try, try again

I have never met a kid who tries so hard.

Even with the limited abilities he has, I have never seen Matthew Slattery sad or upset. If he ever feels sorry for himself, he never shows it. And he never seems to show up to therapy without a smile.

Of course, all of that is well and good—it makes him a pleasure to work with and helps everyone involved in his care to remain positive and hopeful. But it takes more than positivity to produce outcomes: It takes determination and perseverance—traits that Matthew has in abundance. Continue reading

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All by himself

Miracles happen every day at PACT. Kendal is living proof.

Weighing just 1 lb., 1 oz., when he was born at 29 weeks, Kendal and his parents fought and prayed a lot during his first five months, which he spent in the hospital. Low levels of amniotic fluid caused intrauterine growth forced his mother’s doctor to deliver the baby boy early, both for his health and his mother’s.

It wasn’t until five months later that he was released from the hospital. When he came home, his mother took two months off of work so she could manage his multiple medications, heart monitor, doctor’s appointments, and sometimes challenging feedings. Because of his early birth and small size, he had multiple health and developmental problems. All of this in addition, plus adjusting to life with a new baby! Continue reading

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The Turtle Walks

Working as an outpatient physical therapist at Kennedy Krieger’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury (ICSCI), I’ve had the privilege of getting to know many individuals who motivate and inspire me on a daily basis. I often try to put myself in their shoes, wondering how I would cope with a catastrophic injury such as paralysis. Although I have a hard time answering that question myself, I have encountered an individual whose strength of character sets an example of how I can only hope I would endure such a situation. That individual is 22-year-old Peter Exner.

A motor vehicle accident in December of 2009 caused spinal fractures in the thoracic and lumbar portions of Peter’s spinal column, resulting in damage to his spinal cord. This injury left him paralyzed from the waist down. In additional to the spinal cord injury, he also had other life-threatening and painful injuries such as internal bleeding, rib fractures, collapsed lungs, and both arms broken. After surgeries to stabilize his spine and arm fractures, he began the grueling process of rehabilitation.

Peter would be considered a complex case by any therapist. But he never let his numerous injuries slow him down in his recovery. Even at the beginning—before his admission to Kennedy Krieger—when he was placed in a nursing home at the age of 20, his determination never faltered. Meanwhile, even when he experienced significant and debilitating pain as a result of the nerve damage, he continued to participate in intensive physical and occupational therapy as an inpatient at the ICSCI. Continue reading

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Defining Determination

I wouldn’t be surprised to look up the definition of “determination” in a dictionary, only to find a photo of a smiling John “Alex” Curtis.

On the day he was admitted to our inpatient rehabilitation unit, his mother told me, “You know, Alex is a very special child.” Of course, all of us parents think the same about our kids. But throughout his time with us, Alex proved his mother right.

Alex came to Kennedy Krieger Institute for intensive inpatient rehabilitation after he had an operation elsewhere to fix a chest wall abnormality called Pectus Excavatum. If severe and untreated, the condition can affect the ability to breathe. Unfortunately, a complication occurred during the procedure and Alex woke from surgery unable to walk.

I remember within those first few days, Alex told me in a matter-of-fact way that he was going to walk again. I hope for a full recovery for all of my patients, but experience has told me that nothing is guaranteed. Alex, however, didn’t need my hope or guarantee: He knew he would walk again. There was simply never any doubt in his mind. Continue reading

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Get a Grip!

In occupational therapy, much of our success hinges on our patients’ desire to work hard and succeed. After all, we can do everything in our power to help someone live a higher quality life, but at the end of the day, he or she HAS to be willing to do the work. Working with Kennedy Krieger’s Constraint-induced and Bimanual Therapy program, every day I watch kids work exhaustively to gain function in a limb that, until that point, they’ve been unable to use.

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Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Hemiparesis | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments