By Kaye Robertson
For the past 20 years, I’ve worked alongside doctors and therapists, providing a second pair of hands to help our patients regain their abilities after life-changing illness or injury. We still provide that same high-level service, but some things have changed.
When patients come in for their therapy appointments, we give them a mask, take their temperatures and ask them to answer a list of questions, even if they answered the same questions the day before. Have you tested positive for COVID-19? Have you been in contact with anyone who has symptoms of COVID? Have you had any of these symptoms in the past 24 hours – fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, fatigue, sore throat or aches and pains? Everyone who comes through the door, including physicians and staff members, are screened in the same way, and we expect everyone to be honest in their answers. If they have a temperature higher than 100.8 or answer “yes” to any of the questions, we have to cancel their therapy session and advise them to see a doctor.
Our patients are already dealing with the stress of recovery from an illness or injury. In the past, most brought a family member or friend to provide support during therapy. For nearly two months, unless patients had certain conditions that require a caregiver to be present during the session and are given special permission, they had to come to their therapy session alone. This was hard for many of them, so we made up for that by bringing even more positive energy than usual to the session, so that our presence uplifts them. We tell them that right now they are No. 1, and that we’re focusing all our energy on helping them achieve their rehab goals. This month, we have been able to allow patients to have a visitor.
I’m very careful to stay safe. I leave work and go home. There’s no one staying at my house, and I don’t go visiting. I go to the store for groceries and come home because I want to ensure the safety of my patients. I’m an outgoing person and like doing things, so of course, living like this is difficult. To lower my stress level I read, sit in my yard, watch TV, and sometimes I drive out to the lake and sit in my car and watch the water. My whole life is built on helping others. Now that I’m 53, I’ve learned to take care of myself so that I can do a better job of taking care of others.
I know the current ask of all of us to social distance is tough but I know it is temporary. As I’ve learned this far, it’s important to take care of yourself and find moments of joy such as a favorite book or peaceful drive. The more we each do to fight this the better because we will all get through this pandemic together!
TIRR Memorial Hermann Outpatient Rehabilitation-Kirby Glen