That’s what friends are for

Mrs. Wesolowski would turn over in grave if she saw this title and its dangling participle.  So sorry my late English teacher.  It’s even a song title and a great pop tune as well:

Tonight I got to go back in time to my working days.  I had the privilege of talking on the phone with 2 ladies via conference call that I worked with over 10 years ago.  The two of them are long time friends from college.  As for me, “P1” was the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) where I was her supervising Occupational Therapist.  She was hard-working, dedicated, thorough, and very kind with all of our rehabilitation patients.  We had lots of memorable moments and a few we would rather forget as well.  It’s all in the mix when you serve others in the zany, fast-paced people business of healthcare.

“P2” was also a COTA in another SNF when we met, providing quality therapy services over the weekend.  We laughed and got an incredible amount of work done with residents we hardly knew when covering for the regular therapists.  On call work isn’t for everyone when you have to provide billable services in a place where you can hardly find the resident’s rooms in an unfamiliar setting!  What I remember most about P2 was our 1 1/2 years together when I assisted her with a Fibromyalgia Support group she founded for Central DuPage Hospital.  I learned a lot from P2 as she cared for those who attended as friends, as sojourners, emphasizing the importance of keeping our focus on wellness, not just illness when battling chronic pain.

I am so grateful that P1 put this call together tonight.  We got to talk “shop” for the first time for me in a long time.  They also understood the administrative details with which I have struggled in my brother’s care after a stroke 3 months ago.  With P2 we share a strong interest in gardening:  in the past P2’s home was a registered bird and butterfly sanctuary in the west suburbs of Chicago (a very unlikely place for a natural retreat!)  With P1 I share overcoming a traumatic event at our place of work when an administrator verbally attacked her in front of a regional rehabilitation manager who did nothing to defend P1.  She ended up resigning to save her dignity and avoid having to travel many miles between two facilities with the second one even further from her home.  I respected her tremendously for moving on.  We lost a dedicated employee that day but I gained a friendship that has endured more than this . . .

Their sons are now nearly grown and I have moved 200 miles away to another State to remarry and start a new life.  P1 is back in occupational therapy in a SNF near her home and P2 provides Ai Chi water classes to those seeking peace through gentle movements and relaxation techniques.  Both apply everyday what it means to be trained in the field of occupational therapy:  adapting to the challenges and opportunities of life, enriching the lives of others, connecting with those we hold dear.  I do miss working as an occupational therapist.  I also recognize that I am grateful for the skills I learned in O.T. that I use everyday to cope with an ongoing, serious illness.  Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to relive some of those days when a twinkle in the eye of an older adult was my greatest reward for a job well done.  Or when I hear a whoot! whooot! from behind a closed door from a patient who has just regained the ability to care for himself because of the therapeutic relationship with his seasoned COTA.  Those were the days, eh ladies?

As we move forward in life the focus must always change at some point.  I do wonder if I will get to share a cup of coffee or tea with P1 and P2 in person?  Or maybe we will walk in P2’s garden along the wetland in her backyard and marvel at the 80 birdhouse gourds she might harvest once again.  We probably will never work together again and that’s cool too.  But hey, let’s never lose touch o.k.?  You have filled my heart with goodness this night and I appreciate you too so very much.  Seeya on Facebook.  Love to you both,  Just Julie

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