Thursday, October 16, 2014

Telling My Story

I was up at 5:45 a.m.  It was dark in my friends' house, too dark to walk safely down the hallway or the stairs.  Really, it was too dark to be awake. 
I had no choice in the matter.  My physiatrist at the Rehabilitation Institute had invited me to speak to the students and residents under his tutelage.  He's been wonderful to me; it was my pleasure to return the favor. I only wish that his rounds weren't at 7 in the morning.

I stood under the canopy of a still green tree, sheltered from the drizzle, watching the early morning dog walkers in their raingear.  I, of course, was coat-less and hat-less, having believed the internet's weather forecast which promised 60's and sunshine. Uber got me from their neighborhood to the hospital with ease, and the trip qualified me as a full-fledged member of the 21st Century. Little Cuter is quite impressed with her trendy mother.

I sat on a high backed stool in the front of a small auditorium, fifty or so fresh faces before me.  Medical students, interns, residents, and orthotists, they were somewhat intimidated by the fact of the Medical Director on the seat to my right.  It was hard for them to ask questions, or shout out answers.  Instead, they sat with their faces turned my way, hanging on my every word. 

They were evaluating my posture as I described the morning in January, 2011, which started me on my rehab journey.  Yes, it's a journey.  I know that because the Medical Director told the audience that it was.  He reminded them that they were always to consider themselves a way station on the patient's path. It was their responsibility to keep that in mind.

I told them about the medevac helicopter and I told them about the little nurse with the big voice who comforted me when I landed.  I called myself a uvula slut, and described the anesthesiologist's decision to bypass the three baby-steps and go right for the mega-dose of This-Will-Fix-You-Right-Up.  I talked about the physical therapist who was amazed that I was able to do a one legged pivot transfer and clomp around the entire floor with my walker. 

I talked about the resident who woke me at 6am by pressing on my full bladder. I encouraged them to remember that a procedure which needs to be repeated every twelve hours should not be started at 3 in the afternoon.... because the patient will then be awakened at 3 in the morning... every morning... and that's just not right.

I talked about what I'd been before I was shot, and I talked about missing those things afterwards.  I described lying on my couch for 14 weeks, not doing my exercises because no one had made the connection between repetition and retaining strength.  I described my Pilates and yoga and physical therapy teachers, and the journey I took to find them  Creating a treatment team was hard for me.  I encouraged them to consider that fact when sending someone else out into the world. 

I didn't dwell on the shooting; I talked about Christina-Taylor's death.  At the Medical Director's prompting, I described my time on the sidewalk outside the Safeway, and the citizen heroes and first responders who cared for us until we were whisked away to the hospital.  I told them about wonderful nurses and frustrating physicians. 

It was my hope that the doctors in training would see a woman, damaged but unbowed, who had taken charge of her treatment plan ... because there was no one else to do so.  I hope that they recognized that I, with my professional background and big mouth, still took almost 18 months to create a treatment team willing to work together for my benefit.  I wanted them to understand that the feelings behind the losses are as important as the shattered acetabulae. 

I'll never know for sure, but I can hope that some of them will be better doctors after hearing my talk.  I know that I am a better patient for having shared my story with them.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for telling that story. Too often doctors do not get the power of physical therapy.


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