On the Frontlines of COVID: “They’re asking for my help, and I’m willing to give it”

By Daniel Wingard, PT, DPT

It’s my job to help patients recover from neurological illness or injury. COVID-19 makes that much more complicated. The No. 1 priority of most of my patients is to improve their balance, strength and endurance. They’re asking for my help, and I’m willing to give it, even during a pandemic.

For the safety of our patients, we’re treating a smaller caseload. Some patients have decided to postpone therapy until this summer, after consulting with their rehabilitation physicians. We’ll resume therapy with patients who are older or have co-morbidities when the risk of contracting COVID is lower.

Keeping our therapy gym clean has always been a priority, but now we wipe down every surface at least every hour. We also design some patients’ sessions so that they can rest while we take a few minutes to clean.

On the inpatient side at TIRR Memorial Hermann in the Texas Medical Center, we do Zoom calls multiple times a day so that patients can talk with their loved ones. On the outpatient side at Kirby Glen, patients who are battling to recover from catastrophic illness are used to having their family members come to therapy with them. Some patients are more worried about COVID than others. For many, the focus on their recovery outweighs any concerns about the virus. So much depends on the type and extent of the patient’s injury or illness and how much the disability impacts their life.

We have to stay flexible as a staff, which means that some days I have extra time with my family. My wife and kids ground me and help me deal with the stress we’re all under. It also helps to have a regular routine. I go home and help my kids with their homework, spend time with my wife, get some exercise and try to spend a little time reading.  

My wife and two kids are quarantined at home, but I’m going back and forth to work. Because I work directly with patients, my potential for exposure to COVID is greater than that of people who work at home. Concerns about bringing COVID home to my wife and kids do weigh on me, but I take every precaution and use best personal protective practices in every case.

I encourage everyone to continue to practice what we’ve been doing until March. The virus is still here and we have been forced to develop a ‘new normal’ in many areas of our lives. Wearing a mask is important, social distancing is important, cleaning and personal hygiene are extremely important. By all of us doing these things together, we will be able to continue to provide our patients at TIRR Memorial Hermann with the best rehabilitation care.

Daniel Wingard, PT, DPT

Physical Therapist

TIRR Memorial Hermann Outpatient Rehabilitation-Kirby Glen

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