The first few days after a new patient arrives are always the hardest. They are scared, angry, withdrawn, there is no way around it. I can only stay calm and let them vent in whatever way they need to and be here for them.
Charlie has taught me a lot about compassion and determination, and I have taken what I have learned and applied it to how I interact with patients. Charlie has an incredibly special way of getting through to her patients. She is kind and dedicated and never judges anyone. She pushes everyone to do their best, even her employees and she never gives up on anyone. She is truly remarkable, and I am fortunate to work for her and learn from her.
Levi is a little more challenging than what I am used to. He is an actor, he is used to having things his way, has a beautiful actress girlfriend who has relied on Levi to take care of her, and his manager wants to control everything I’m sure.
“Sorry man”, I tell Levi after our first uncomfortable therapy treatment.
He rolls his eyes at me and looks away. “Just get on with the toileting already”, he growls at me.
I grab the urinal and do what I need to as he turns his head to ignore me.
“I know this is all unsettling and it will probably get worse before it gets better, but I’m always going to be straightforward with you about everything along the way”, I state to him.
Caught off guard, but not totally unexpected, Levi asks me, “What the hell made you want to do this for a job?”
I do get asked that often, being a guy, I can understand why my job is not very appealing. This was not my first choice for a career, but things happen unexpectedly that cause a person to change course. It is better that Levi knows the reason, so I tell him.
“Fifteen years ago, my best friend severed his spinal cord in a skiing accident. There were not any treatment centers like this back then, so I watched him go through whatever treatment options were available. He couldn’t feel or move anything from his chest down, he only had sporadic control of his arms”.
Levi seems to be listening to me, so I continue, “I witnessed my best friend go through every emotion possible...anger, denial, hopelessness, depression, and even though I was there for him, it wasn’t enough, and he took his own life”, I almost choke on the words but go on....” I promised myself I would do whatever I can to make sure someone in his situation does not have his same fate. I did a lot of research, became a physical therapist, and then I found Charlotte, and here I am”, I happily explain to him.
I thought of becoming a nurse, but during my first semester in Nursing school, I met Charlotte on the rehab floor of one of the hospitals. I watched the way she interacted with a patient who was paralyzed from the waist down and was intrigued. I started asking her questions and she told me about her rehab center specifically for spinal cord injury patients. She gave me a tour around the facility one day and realized right away that I wanted to be a therapist here.
Levi looks at me with a much more pleasant expression and earnestly says, “oh”.
After what feels like a newfound respect for each other, I get the Hoyer lift ready and explain how I am going to use it to lift him into his wheelchair. This process goes smoothly. He stays quiet but no longer angry. I reassure him that we will be able to do more with him as his fractures heal and he acknowledges me with a nod.
“Your parents, Mark and Emma are waiting in the lounge for you, we are all going to take a tour of the place together before lunch, alright? I say to him.
“Yeah, yeah, sure ok” he says as I push his chair into the hall.