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PT on the Run

Patient or Victim?

Published May 29, 2014 3:37 PM by Michael Kelley

This past weekend most of us in the US enjoyed a nice three-day weekend in honor of Memorial Day. I had the opportunity to catch up on some news and came across an article online about a soldier who had lost all four limbs after a bomb exploded under his truck in Afghanistan. This happened a few years back and he now has four prosthetic limbs. The article wasn't long and it pretty much revolved around one central idea this soldier had: the notion that he was not a "wounded warrior."

I'm paraphrasing here, but he goes so far as to say, "I was a wounded warrior. But I'm not wounded anymore." Pretty powerful words coming from someone many might view as helpless or severely disabled. (For the record, the article went on to say the soldier is married, has a child, is an avid snowboarder, and runs a foundation to help other "wounded" vets).

Anyway, this article got me wondering, do I view my patients as "wounded" or as "victims?" Do I have the right to view them this way? Isn't that their choice? Certainly we've all had patients who play the helpless victim and some are deserving of the title, but do I get to label them as such? I wonder what patients would say if I asked them how they felt about themselves in their current condition and station in life.

I suppose it's all a matter of perspective. I can envision a 50-year-old stroke patient asking how something so terrible could happen to him. And at the same time I could see a 95-year-old with the same stroke reminiscing about what a good life he's lived. Do we treat patients as victims of their condition? If so, should we? What do you think?

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