Just doing my job

occupational therapy, O.T., home care, home health, assistant, therapist, accessibility, tub transfer, adaptive equipement, Hope Beyond, therapist heal thyself, tub bench, transfer, gait belt, bathroom treatment, therapy
An O.T. assisting a client in a tub transfer using bathroom safety equipment.

When I was working in my career as an Occupational Therapist, I coined the following phrase to describe my role to my patients and their families:

An Occupational Therapist takes a look at how a person occupies his or her time and the skills needed to get through the day.

This definition worked well, given the diversity of populations, conditions, and treatment interventions utilized in O.T.  Having a simple, quick definition helped me better communicate my 30+ years of licensed and skilled interventions from a variety of treatment settings that might be called upon at any stage over a course of therapy.  Together we then crafted a course of action to get the person back into his or her life as best as possible.  Funny how the person that may have benefitted the most from all of this is the one writing to you this evening . . .

Recovery from a serious illness has been a case of the phrase “therapist heal thyself” coupled with the expertise of a few other licensed professionals.  My part was to study, research, document, evaluate, revise, manage, and just hang in there by my fingernails to get through these past 4 years.  However I will credit the Lord, Jesus Christ for providing the courage and hope that my husband, Steve, and I needed to actually start seeing some progress.  And guess what, it is starting to happen!  The Lord has allowed recovery to begin!

Six weeks ago I began an ongoing, intensive course of IV antibiotics for the treatment of chronic Lyme disease.  In the interim I experimented with liposomal melatonin, 5-HTP (a precursor to serotonin), and now CBD oil (from industrial hemp).  I believe it is that latter that have helped to move my sleep/wake cycle from that of a brown bat to a gal that is just slightly a night owl.  I am starting to dream again and have a little more energy, clarity of thought.  Also the years spent chasing down mercury toxicity, mold illness, dental issues, and secondary infections have prepared me to tolerate this level of intensive treatment.  Are you ready for the biggest change of all?

The two to five hours per day of violent convulsive episodes is diminishing in intensity and duration!  This has been consistent for about two weeks now.  PRAISE THE LORD!!!!!!!!!!

We are thrilled for some positive change in my condition!  We are now hopeful that the powerful doses of antibiotics will help kill the Lyme bacteria and co-infections likely causing the seizure attacks and other noxious symptoms.  Whoa.  So how do I fill my days?  I am continuing my full time job of daily detoxing, preparing  a specifically crafted diet, maintaining a detailed treatment log, medical appointments averaging daily, supportive relationships, study-and-research, medical treatments (some complications came with the IV treatments), connecting online to forums critical to these efforts, the “stuff of life,” and taking a walk at least once per week.  Maybe this week it will be twice?  Yeah God, the pup will love that one!

Like in the past, right now I am just doing my job.  I am grateful that the Lord saw fit to lead me into the profession of occupational therapy as it provided me the skills needed to manage the mechanics of this illness.  Along the way my beloved Steve has been the greatest friend, confidant, witness, and spiritual leader that I could have ever asked for to walk this road with me.  He has labored tirelessly night and day for me, for us.  Thank you Jesus for Steve.  There are many unknowns and many more months of treatment yet to follow for sure.  No problemmo.  With my Lord and Savior at the helm, I will be fine.  Lord willing, I am going to get well!

Just thought you might like some good news from the “Hope Beyond” blog, eh?  Take care Gentle Reader.  And thank you for your support.  You rock!  JJ

A New Project to Keep Me Sane

An idea for a new project has come to mind so when I’m not here, I’m brain-dumping in Microsoft Word.  The topic:  helping others with chronic illness with the day-to-day practical barriers to living.

My career in occupational therapy included evaluating the daily “occupations” in the lives of my patients and the skills he or she needed to get through the day.  Occupations can include homemaking, pre-driving skills, functioning on the job, and more.  When the person was unable to complete the steps, tasks, and activities needed to perform those daily occupations then O.T. was offered.  Treatment began during an inpatient hospital or rehabilitation facility stay and continued in outpatient or home care therapy sessions.  I have had the privilege of working in all of these settings.  My favorite was always home care.  When you are working with a patient in their own living situation, the evaluation is often more accurate and the remediation more meaningful.   This was my part time work when I became sick on October 11, 2011.  Within a few months I was unable to continue.  Since then the remediation has focused on my own home and health!

I am grateful for my 30 years in occupational therapy practice.  The Lord led me to a profession as a high school graduate that would provide a fulfilling career my entire adult life.  I enjoyed serving others in both psychiatric and physical rehabilitation settings, with adolescents to older adults alike.  I have been with a patient just moments before she passed away and another when he realized that his disabilities would be permanent.  To look into the eyes of someone about to lose their independence because of his medical condition and another who needs a little nudge to realize she is ready to return to work are equally humbling experiences.  And these days when I look into the mirror, I have some of those same discussions in mind as I consider the challenges of my own life these days.  Gratefully, I have a rich variety of experiences and resources upon which to draw.  In many ways I have not had to struggle as much as my patients because of my training as an OT.

For example, I intuitively know the importance of planning ahead in the evening for the next morning.  If I wake up with seizure attacks and my husband is alone, I generally have a plan in place to meet my basic needs in case I would be unable to leave the bedroom.  The night before, I usually pack a breakfast with my a.m. medications, enough water and food (following my special diet) to make it through the first part of the day.  Low blood sugar can exacerbate my symptoms so this strategy has become one of numerous methods employed to cope with my limitations of late.  I am grateful to the Lord for the skills He has giving me, His help in my time of need, and His leading me to a profession that has allowed me to cope through many trials in my life.

So why don’t I see what I can do to help others with this knowledge?  When I did a preliminary search on coping strategies, I found a great deal of resources on the topics of emotional, psychological, and social skills for persons with chronic illness.  This was a great discovery and I benefitted from reviewing these blogs, articles, book reviews, and so on.  But where were the day-to-day strategies for example, in preventing falls when dizzy because of a medication side effect?  In my role as an OT, I could point to many disease-specific organizations that might have such resources, for example the Alzheimer’s Association or Multiple Sclerosis Society.  This information is also easy to find within the disability community.  But what about a person with Lyme disease?  Sick building syndrome?  A temporary illness?  Persons with a serious, multi-diagnosis, ongoing illness numbers in the hundreds of thousands or more.  I see them on Facebook forums, WebMD, and the like.  I would like them to know that there are simple strategies to reduce their daily struggles, improve their ability to function, and in doing so also keep myself sane while on the path to healing.

We have a saying within the therapy profession that goes like this, “therapist, heal thyself.”  While this is not entirely true, certainly a therapist can do pretty well at rallying some resources to get the healing process going.  My hope is that by sharing some practical information with others I will not only keep myself sane as I write but also gear myself up for returning to a productive life someday soon.  The complications of my own illness make it difficult to concentrate, use various thinking skills after several episodes per day.  The challenge of writing, editing, researching, and publishing my first eBook did help fire some neurons in a meaningful sequence here and there!  I’m thinking I’ll try it again.

If this resonates with you, please let me know what you would like to see in such a handbook.  The current outline begins with the morning of a typical day and continues through all of the activities of daily living until bedtime.  I will include information on fall and injury prevention with references for sample adaptive equipment, such as a sliding tub transfer bench or automatic night lights.  Many of us will be familiar with parts of the information.  My hope is that by systematically reviewing a person’s typical home environment that there will be new insights:  a little something for everyone and his or her caregivers.  I have seen the power of a simple strategy in making the day a little brighter in the life of a person battling a serious illness.  Maybe this will even lead to a forum where there will be an exchange of information as well.  I am looking forward to the possibilities . . .