Day 21 – Reality

Whilst the SCI Interns took two hours making a Guava Salad with chillis, coriander and mustard (of all things?) yesterday, the senior therapists had had a meeting about CV and finally admitted you did not feed to wear a mask… success!

I took Aaliyah with me this morning to see my patients as we regularly discuss things that we see, and I wanted her opinion and advice on the exercises and manual handling. She was interested to see the other PTs working with their patients in the rehab room where all is exposed and then to work on the Women’s Ward where there was a bit of variety that set off some emotions in her. With her help, we succeeded in walking Sol with a zimmer frame and his braces instead of the parallel bars, we attempted STS with May as an experiment and assessed reflexes (this was very exciting for us as students for we’d never tested them on a real patient before) and best of all, we got Taz to sit in long-sitting in bed.

Tee is my young patient who describes herself as lazy but today she seemed particularly down.

‘Are you okay today Tee?’ I asked, assessing her frown and absent expression whilst I did PROM.

‘Yes.’ She said in short.

While Aaliyah continued the exercises on her other leg I asked again, ‘You don’t seem so happy.’

She replied, ‘I want to ask you a question.’ I nodded in response. ‘What do you think of my condition?’

‘I’m not sure what you mean,’ I replied, frowning slightly, ‘What do you think of your condition?’

‘Do you think I will ever walk again and be independent and have a good life and be free?’

I bit my lip and looked down at her whilst thinking quickly. My current assessment saw that she had no active muscle movement or sensation from around T12 down, she was unfit due to inactivity and idleness and adding that she had a catheter in situ, she was not currently medically fit. I don’t know if she expects a miracle, but as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I told her that I was a student and no Doctor, I did not have the knowledge to give an answer that would be appropriate and all that she could do was come to every session with eagerness and motivation to work hard and chase that quality of life that currently seemed so far away. More or less said like that, anyway. She sighed and nodded and then looked back up at the ceiling still maintaining a slight crease in between her eyebrows. I think the knowledge that you might never walk again can deflate or motivate some and I just hope to whatever she believes in, that she will stay motivated because it brought me such happiness to leave her sat up in bed today.

I chose to do Volleyball today due to feeling a bit distant yesterday during basketball and not quite in the mood though I caught myself occasionally staring blissfully at the court and then missing the ball as it flew at me. One lady was sat in her WC at the end of the line with a smile that came with a sigh. The smile that says I am happy to be here, though the circumstances that brought me are not so great. If the ball came to her she would absentmindedly raise an arm or she would throw it when asked but my heart went out to her every time because I just wanted to sit with her and have her tell me her story, word for word. At times like this I wish I spoke Bangla because there’s so much more I want to learn from these people and what they think their future will be.

NB: false names used for patients elsewise permission given

Wheelchair Skills Lesson: patients have to navigate slopes, steps, different pathways and holes to complete the circuit
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