Archive for Thursday, July 22, 2010

Angels, saints on Earth

July 22, 2010

It seems that I have been spending my time with heroes, angels and saints.

No, I haven’t visited another dimension or fantasized about ancient Greece or Rome. My dimension is real and right here. What I’m talking about is physical therapy.

I spend from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day in the hard work of physical therapy. There I observe and am a part of some of the arduous exercises designed to wake up snoozing hands and feet and help them to remember their previous movements. During the process, they are challenged to resume as much of their former duties as possible.

The “heroes” are the patients. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds but they have one common goal and that is to heal and mend so they can get on with their lives.

Ages vary from a 15-year-old girl whose smile brightens the room. She patiently and quietly accepts spending her day in the company of senior citizens. Then there is a 91-year-old stroke survivor whose humor and one-liners keep everyone laughing. For example, the day before the Fourth of July he quipped, “I can’t afford fireworks, so I’ll just shoot off my mouth.”

All of the heroes strain as they attempt to master simple tasks, such as picking up a tennis ball and putting it in a basket. We support each other and lend encouragement with each victory.

I like to think we follow Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s philosophy of “never sound retreat.” Surrendering to limitations is not an option. We must win back as much as we can and we are willing to sacrifice and yes, even hurt to accomplish success.

None of the heroes asked to be in this position. No one volunteered for a stroke, accident, surgery or birth defect as a way to slow down and impair their lives. Yet they are making the most of it and all are thankful for modern techniques that aid and promote healing.

The “angels” are the physical and occupational therapists. I am amazed at their knowledge of human movements. They know exactly what needs to be done to strengthen weak muscles. Everything they do is designed to help the heroes master everyday tasks. They know that every movement that we once took for granted must now be thought out. The angels have infinite patience to watch as we struggle.

They slowly follow and gently guide us as we walk at a snail’s pace for 400 to 800 feet around the hospital corridors. Sometimes they take us outside so that we can learn to walk on sidewalks and maneuver over uneven terrain. They praise our successes and are always upbeat, encouraging even the smallest of wins. They are really earth angels.

The “saints” are the everyday caregivers, which are usually, but not always, spouses and children. They dedicate their lives to helping to improve the quality of life for their loved one. They know there are sacrifices and that they must put their lives on hold, so to speak. They understand that their quality of life may never be the same again, yet they accept the situation and tirelessly persevere to make the best of their present unasked-for role as caregivers. Not only do they have to deal with their own daily tasks, but they accept and take on the additional workload of patient care.

They are forced to learn new skills quickly, such as assisting with walking, getting in and out of bed and automobiles, maneuvering and loading wheelchairs. They have to learn the correct way of helping and assisting without hurting either their patient or themselves. They do this with great love for the heroes. They are truly saints right here on earth.

I know that I will get better and I have come a great distance since late May, and that is due to the support of angels and saints. In addition, the journey has been made easier by the cares and prayers of the greater community.

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