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When OTs Wore White Shoes

What Ever Happened to My Favorite Patients?

Published April 21, 2014 9:29 AM by Debra Karplus
I've been reading the obituaries in our local newspaper for a long time. Apparently, many people do the same. My early work was in nursing homes. When you work with a patient daily for thirty days, you get to know them and their families well by the time their therapy ends or they're discharged to home. Perhaps that's when or why I started reading death announcements; or it may just be my nature, as a social person living in a relatively small community, to discover what's going on with people I know.

Haven't we all had favorite patients or at least some that are very memorable? I don't think it matters what setting we have worked in, or our age, or the age of our patients or clients, a few just stand out. Sometimes something jogs in our brain that makes us wonder "What even happened to Jason, the second grader I treated at Presidents Elementary School in 1996?"

There's one girl I treated for months at the nursing home in the 1980s; I believe she remained there long after I had changed jobs. At sixteen years old, she was clearly the youngest patient there. "Valerie", a new driver, had been in a serious car accident that caused her permanent brain damage. Periodically, I run into her at some local fair or festival, where she, in her motorized wheelchair, and her hired caretaker, greet me enthusiastically.  Valerie, always very agreeable, insists that she remembers me when I ask her, but I am not convinced that she does.

"Paul" was a little boy in the late 1990s when his father had that serious fall from a roof that instantly transformed Dad into a quadriplegic. I see Paul often as he is now my boss at one of the facilities where I work, and I often ask how his dad is doing. Apparently things are status quo.

"Jenny" was born "brain dead", a homebirth gone awry. With a crew of other therapists, I saw Jenny weekly in her home to provide sensory stimulation, range of motion exercises, and work with her family on activities they could do with her to facilitate her developmentally. Recently, the family was in a terrible accident that killed them all instantly.  Ironically, since Jenny was unable to travel with them, she was the only one to survive. She now lives in a facility housed with other young adults with severe developmental disabilities.

"Gwen" was a favorite patient in the rehab unit of the hospital where I worked in 2001. I was there the day the TV was on in patient's rooms on that fateful September 11 morning. Coincidentally, Robert, who has done some repairs on my car, is her son. He keeps me up to date on Gwen's status.

I worked with Mikey in kindergarten because of a diagnosis of right-sided hemiparesis. Today, a high school senior, he is seen in the school hallways with "that arm" around a cute cheerleader.

Who are your most memorable patients?

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