Tag Archives: therapist

My Health, Independence and Financial Challenges 5 Years After Injury

Danielle Watson became paralyzed from the waist down in June 2011. In May 2016, Danielle completed her master’s in occupational therapy.


People are shocked all the time that I drive and live independently. I don’t blame them, because I didn’t know what people with disabilities could do either, until my injury. I have managed (with help from others) to figure out how to live independently.

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

“I have managed to figure out how to live independently.”

I consider my wheelchair to be an extension of myself at this point. It really bothers me to hear the terms “confined to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair bound” because the wheelchair is an awesome machine that allows me to be independent. I also rely on my NuProdx shower bench and I now have one on the toilet, too, to prevent pressure sores. My car is also an important part of my independence. It has been adapted with hand controls.

I have had increasing complications with my health over the past 5 years. Unfortunately, spinal cord injury affects many of my bodily systems, so I must continue to adapt. The average person doesn’t realize that I am not just sitting. That is the easiest part. Spinal cord injury affects all body systems. I usually keep this hidden from people and try to portray that I have everything together. However, I constantly have to think about my bladder, my digestion, my bones, my joints, my body mechanics, avoiding pressure sores, my temperature, my water intake…the list goes on!

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

Danielle fell 250 feet. The injury “affects many of my bodily systems”

Therapy has had a huge impact on my life. I am so grateful to have had so many good health professionals after my injury. I already wanted to be a therapist before my accident, but my injury introduced me to occupational therapy, which I had never heard of before. My hope is that I can use my personal experience and empathy to help others after a life-altering injury.

I have faced significant financial challenges since the injury. By the time I get my license to practice OT, I will have been unemployed for almost 6 years. I have student loans from undergraduate schooling that I have been unable to pay off and they have been accumulating interest. I had to decide if I would be able to live my life on social security or minimum wage or take on the loans and the hope for a better life. I am trying to do the right thing and support myself financially.

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

“I am trying to do the right thing and support myself financially.”

HelpHOPELive has thankfully shielded me from many of the medical expenses that go along with this injury. I don’t know how I would survive without it. There are a lot of supplies and pieces of equipment that I need that Medicare doesn’t cover. Sometimes Medicare makes errors and I get stuck with huge medical bills. I have lived in five different places within the last 5 years and I have had to renovate them all to make them accessible. When I begin to work, I will lose Medicare and I will have private insurance, but I am thankful to HelpHOPELive for helping me cover deductibles, medications and procedures through fundraising.

The HelpHOPELive campaign in my honor has been extremely important because I don’t have to agonize over purchases or costs that are medically necessary or helpful in maintaining my independence, which really contributes to my mental health. I have so many other worries with my spinal cord injury that it is really helpful to have one less worry.

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

Fundraising helps Danielle to live independently.

I was introduced to adaptive sports 6 months after my injury. I skied as soon as I was medically able. Oregon Adaptive Sports has been crucial to my recovery–I received scholarships for the lessons I needed to learn to ski and they have been a family to me. I met most of my friends though OAS and I continue to be a participant and an advocate for the organization. HelpHOPELive helps with the expenses that are not covered by the scholarships I get.

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

Danielle participates in adaptive sports, triathlons and marathons.

I love to travel now just as much as I did before my injury. Having the right equipment really helps. I have a shower chair that comes apart and fits into a small square bag. That has made travel a lot easier, and I bring it with me everywhere. I want to travel the world but currently it is easier and more accessible for me to travel within the United States because of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

Travel is easier for Danielle with the right adaptive equipment.

I look forward to being self-sufficient again. I look forward to buying a home someday that I can renovate for my needs, and I look forward to getting into a routine that will allow me to finally get my finances under control.

Thankfully, I have a degree in philosophy, so I had a lot of time to think about big questions before my injury. I believe in the power of your thoughts and your words to manifest your life. I try my best to shed the thoughts that don’t serve me well and think positively. I have gotten better at this over time and I believe it is something you can practice until it becomes more natural. Having a disability can be alright if you have access to the right equipment and support, which is why HelpHOPELive is so necessary.

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

“Having a disability can be alright if you have access to the right equipment and support.”


Learn more about Danielle and make a contribution in her honor at helphopelive.org. Follow her blog for ongoing insights on life and possibilities after injury.

Mobility Matters: The Surprising Benefits Of Good Balance

Balance guru Helena Esmonde is the most senior neurological therapist at Penn Therapy & Fitness in Radnor, Pa. As we explore why mobility matters in honor of Mobility Awareness Month, she explains how balance can significantly influence our quality of life.

Helena Esmonde HelpHOPELive

Senior neuro therapist Helena Esmonde


Tell us about yourself!


I am a senior therapist II, and I participate in mentoring, teaching and research in addition to quality clinical care. As a neurologic and vestibular (inner ear balance) specialist, my focus is to provide individualized rehabilitation using evidence-based practice to ensure the best possible function and quality of life for my patients.


Why is balance important?


Balance is essentially the ability to keep your center of mass over your base of support, which is your two feet. With a working balance system, we can stand safely, react effectively, avoid falling when engaging in a planned movement, and walk and move without stumbling or falling.

balance

Balance is the ability to keep your center of mass over your two feet

When our balance is impaired, we are more likely to fall and get injured. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. Having the best balance possible minimizes the risks for serious and potentially life-altering injuries.


Which conditions can influence our balance?


Our balance can be impaired because of weakness, age, a neurological disease or injury, vision issues or decreased cognition. However, falling should not be seen as a normal part of aging or something that is inevitable. I often tell my patients, “Your auto-pilot for keeping your balance is not as automatic as you get older,” and that’s why patients train with us and learn how to move more safely.

fall

Falling should not be seen as a “normal” part of aging


How can poor balance affect your mind as well as your body?


There are a few different ways that balance can be emotionally and mentally distressing. When a person’s balance is impaired for any reason, that person lives in constant fear of injury and therefore tends to self-limit their activity. This can mean that they avoid exercise because of a fear of tripping on an uneven patch of sidewalk. That person then loses the mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise as well as the physical benefits.

isolate

Poor balance can invoke a fear of social environments

A person with poor balance often also chooses to avoid positive social experiences due to a fear of falling. For example, someone may not visit a friend because the friend does not have a railing next to their staircase, or they may not attend a party because of the fear of losing balance if someone bumps into them accidentally. Poor balance can lead to social isolation as well as physical deconditioning or disability.


How can physical therapy improve balance?


There are numerous advanced physical therapy techniques for training better balance, some of which are tailored to people with specific conditions. The focus of all such physical therapy is to key in on an individual patient’s goals. I am currently training an individual with MS who wants to be able to walk, dance and move safely at her daughter’s wedding in a month. Like most people with MS, she gets fatigued easily and finds that the fatigue negatively affects her balance. Another patient is trying to progress from using a walker to using a cane safely to free a hand for opening doors, carrying items and shaking someone’s hand in greeting. I try to focus on the goals that will bring quality to each unique person’s situation, whatever it may be.

balance

Could better balance improve your day-to-day interactions?


Can physical therapy be expensive?


Physical therapy is not as expensive as some other options, such as surgery, to correct balance issues. However, if a patient has a major injury or illness (including trauma, a stroke or a spinal cord injury) he or she will likely require therapy and rehabilitation for a longer time, including inpatient rehabilitation and home care, before “graduating” to an outpatient therapy setting. The numbers can add up.

wedding

“It’s hard to put a price on dancing at your daughter’s wedding”

Our main goal is helping patients get back to the highest level of functioning. It’s hard to put a price on dancing at your daughter’s wedding or shaking someone’s hand when you meet them. At Penn Therapy & Fitness, we offer a charitable care program for patients who are unable to afford their outpatient therapy. We also work with patients to help identify other resources that may help them afford care. This is one of the many reasons we appreciate partnerships with such wonderful organizations as HelpHOPELive!


Are there any ways to improve your balance at home?


Exercise is a critical element in decreasing your risk for balance issues and falls, but it’s important to understand what sort of exercise has the greatest benefit. Tai Chi, Pilates and yoga can improve balance, but for those who are not up for that level of challenge, strength in the hip muscles and core strength (belly and back muscle) are the most significant factors.

yoga

Try yoga to improve balance, or work on strengthening your body daily

Lie on your side and lift your top leg up and down. You’ll work important hip muscles that keep your pelvis stable for balance. In addition to exercise, have your vision checked at least yearly. Keep your mind sharp with crossword puzzles or other brain games that benefit your eyes and your brain! Taking action to prevent falls becomes more important as you age. Talk to your doctor and make sure you can keep your balance everywhere you want to go!


Need help covering the cost of rehabilitation to maintain your quality of life after a catastrophic injury or illness? Visit helphopelive.org to start a fundraising campaign with our nonprofit.

4 Things You Need To Know About Your TBI

March 18 is Brain Injury Awareness Day. To honor TBI survivors and their daily struggle to find a ‘new normal,’ we’ve created this Guest Post with Huffington Post writer and TBI survivor Amy Zellmer. If you’ve experienced a TBI, here are four things you need to know right now, and four ways to find support.

Brain Injury Awareness Day HelpHOPELive

March 18 is Brain Injury Awareness Day.

One: It’s normal to feel angry, afraid or stressed out.

A TBI can spark a range of confusing emotions, from anxiety and apprehension to anger, helplessness and panic. Zellmer confirmed that after her TBI, she constantly felt afraid of sustaining a second injury and daunted at the prospect of managing her TBI symptoms for the rest of her life.

Some TBI sufferers encounter “a daily struggle even trying to get out of bed in the morning,” said Zellmer. “They are terrified of what might happen to them next. Some have such profound anxiety that they can hardly leave their home.” Zellmer cautioned that attitude shifts after a TBI can be severe. “My personality has changed,” she said, “and I am aware of my mood swings…sometimes the bad days are just more than I can handle.”

Find Support: Zellmer notes that the fear, anxiety and helplessness that you feel can be successfully managed and treated. Sticking to a routine, staying involved in the activities you enjoy, and accepting that your feelings are normal are helpful first steps.

For additional support, there is no shame in seeking professional help. “Seeing a therapist on a regular basis has really helped me deal with my PTSD issues and fear of hurting myself,” said Zellmer. “A therapist is not there to judge you or tell you you’re right or wrong. They are there to help you sort through your emotions and anxiety to relieve yourself of the negatives in your life.”

Anger HelpHOPELive Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness

It’s normal to feel angry, afraid or resentful post-TBI.

Two: Cognitive issues can catch you off guard.

There are multiple cognitive symptoms that might affect your daily life after a TBI. For Zellmer, cognitive issues following her TBI were both frustrating and disruptive. “We [as TBI survivors] have cognitive deficiencies that don’t make sense, even to us,” Zellmer noted. “The confused woman in the kitchen staring at the oven is someone I am just now starting to understand,” she said. “I am finally coming to terms with this ‘new me.’”

Find Support: According to Zellmer, the cognitive issues associated with your “invisible” injury can make you feel isolated, judged or misunderstood. “After my TBI, I felt isolated and alone,” said Zellmer. “No one really seemed to understand what I was going through, or possibly, they didn’t believe it was as severe as it was. When injuries and illnesses are invisible like TBI, it’s easy for others to say, ‘well, you look normal, so you must be okay.’”

Zellmer responded to this isolation with action: “I created a group on Facebook for survivors to hang out and feel like they fit in. Many were craving this sort of connection and community.”

Speaking with like-minded TBI survivors may significantly improve your mood and outlook. The connections may even help your brain to physically heal. “For me, personally,” said Zellmer, “once I began to understand that my symptoms were normal and fit the scale of what others were dealing with, it really started to help my healing and the grieving process as I let go of the ‘old me.’”

Brain Injury Awareness HelpHOPELive memory

A TBI can result in multiple cognitive symptoms, including memory lapses.

Three: Every TBI is different.

For some, a TBI comes with constant physical pain and overwhelming fatigue. For others, the injury is synonymous with constant confusion and debilitating memory impairment. Your TBI is as unique as you are, and your symptoms may be a one-of-a-kind blend of physical or mental challenges. Ultimately you are the only expert on your unique circumstances and struggles following a TBI.

Find Support: For Zellmer, finding an outlet for her emotions and thoughts was an important step in the recovery process. At first, said Zellmer, “I didn’t have the courage. I [was] scared…scared that people will be snarky or rude….scared of reliving the fall.” Zellmer realized that releasing her emotions would allow her to support other TBI survivors and conquer her own fears about her experiences. “Writing is your therapy, Amy,” she said to herself to combat the doubts.

“Finding your ‘new normal’ is an important part of recovery and healing,” said Zellmer. “Get out and get active or find a hobby.” Not all hobbies will bring you as much satisfaction as frustration: “Many of us can’t deal with computer screens or loud stimulation, so finding a new alternative can be challenging, but rewarding when you find it,” Zellmer said.

Brain Injury Awareness HelpHOPELive outlet

A positive outlet can help you come with your emotions post-TBI.

Four: TBIs are expensive to rehabilitate.

The average lifetime cost for a TBI averages $85,000 but expenses for a severe TBI can top $3 million. The recovery process may call for therapy, physical rehabilitation, extensive medical testing, medication, transportation to specialization centers and regular GP or hospital visits. Some costs, including temporary housing and transportation, may not be completely covered by all insurance plans.

Find Support: HelpHOPELive supports TBI patients in their recovery process by providing assistance with fundraising both online and in your community. If you are struggling with the costs associated with your TBI, learn about your options at m.helphopelive.org/supportforinjury.

Zellmer noted the importance of finding professionals who will give you the support and insight you need to recover. “Find a doctor who understands and ‘gets’ you and your TBI,” she recommended. “If you’re not happy with the one you’ve got, look for another, or ask for a referral from someone in your area.” Finding the right recovery team for you may be an ongoing process. “Be an advocate for your health!” Zellmer urged.

You don’t have to face your TBI alone.

Though every TBI is unique, you don’t have to struggle with the symptoms of your TBI without support. Zellmer releases regular blog posts on The Huffington Post for TBI survivors.

Brain Injury Awareness HelpHOPELive support

53 million U.S. citizens are living with a brain injury. You are not alone.

“Know that you are not alone,” said Zellmer. “There are approximately 53 million people in the U.S. living with a brain injury. There are many groups out there trying to help raise awareness. Get involved! Join support groups. Get active. Embrace your new life!”

Talk to us about your post-TBI journey on Facebook or on Twitter.