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Toni Talks about PT Today

Working While Injured

Published October 11, 2011 9:27 AM by Toni Patt

This morning, one of the OTs I work with came in on crutches. She'd hurt her foot over the weekend and wasn't able to bear weight through it. She said she thought she would be OK because she could do most of her work sitting down. Occupational Health didn't agree with her. They sent her home.

That is one of my biggest fears. I'm afraid I'll be injured somehow and unable to work. I'm not worried about being a walking wounded. That is someone who hurts but is still able to move around. I've come in plenty of times with something hurting, just not bad enough to make me slow down. I'm afraid I'm going to break a bone or suffer a TBI.

I think everyone has a secret fear. This is one of mine. The other is having a stroke and becoming hemiplegic. It isn't irrational. Sooner or later I'm going to come off a horse and break something. I've simply convinced myself that no matter what it is, I'll still be able to work. Depending on what I break, I may even be able to pull that off. I won't enjoy it but I won't miss work.

Getting hurt is something we don't think about. No one thinks anything will happen to them. Janey Goude made that point very well a couple weeks ago in her blog about the uninsured. Insured or not, no one expects to become sick or get hurt. When something does happen, we tell ourselves we don't need therapy because we already know what to do. I can already hear myself explaining to emergency room personnel that I just need some crutches. I already know how to walk with them.

I can also see myself ignoring whatever precautions I may be given. I'd be compliant with NWB if I broke a bone or had to have an ACL repaired. It's the not-quite-so-serious stuff that I would have trouble with. Crutches and a fracture boot? Not. A sling for a shoulder injury? Only if it really hurt without one. I've already taken out my own stitches a few times. Yes, I admit it. I'm not what you would call a good patient. But I would take my medicine, even pain meds to some extent. I would elevate and ice injured limbs.

The problem is I wouldn't stay still. How long does anyone think I would stay off the horses? I would for as long as I couldn't physically get into the saddle. I think this behavior is probably true of most of us. Physical therapy is an active occupation. We don't sit down. We don't do well with staying still. And we all think we can manage just fine despite a minor mishap.

I had something to think about this morning. I really did for a few minutes. Then I went right back to rushing down the hall to get my day started. I would probably still come to work if I were on crutches. But hopefully I would at least think about staying home first.


Accidents do happen.  I'm a 70 yr old P.T. who works "casual pool" at an acute care hospital.  I stepped over a gasoline hose and sustained a very bad fracture of my R. ankle. Was NWB/TDWB for 10 weeks, following ORIF with a rod, 5 screws and 2 pins.  Just started putting weight on my Rt foot again Dec 30!  Fortunately, I'm also retired.  Make sure you are current on short/long term disability insurance if working full time and not retired!! As a result of my accident, I've had the surreal experience of being a patient from Acute care hospital, to LTC in a nursing home through home care, as I had no close family support  + STEPS to navigate at home.   Hopefully I'll get back to work as a casual pool P.T. in the next month or so, as I've been blessed with good primary goal, though, is to get back on the tennis courts!

Mary Lee, Acute care - P.T., JRMC January 5, 2012 1:40 PM
Pittsburgh PA

I'm with you...CVA is my biggest fear.  

Watching my dad after his multi-AAA surgery, I think being active worked in his favor.  He looked bad the first two days home, but he pushed anyway.  He wouldn't lay down, but did succumb to a few naps sitting up.  When he inhaled in the spirometer at the hospital, it flew to the top.  When he asked what the line was for, the nurse laughed.  The mark was halfway up the tube - his goal that he blew past.  He was supposed to blow in it every hour.  He used it once.  I flew in the day before surgery and was there a week.  Before I left, this almost 72 year old man had completely resumed normal life activities...getting back on his horse, so to speak.  

My guess is your active, healthy lifestyle will keep you healthier longer, make your fears less likely to materialize, and get you back on your horse more quickly if you do happen to fall off :-)

Janey Goude October 14, 2011 1:09 PM

One of my biggest nightmares is getting pregnant and then being on bedrest for part of the pregnancy.  I think I would die if I had to sit still for that long.  I would go insane.  You're right- we are an active bunch.

Lisa Mueller October 12, 2011 2:18 PM

Great post and it gave me a great laugh...because I recognize so much of myself in it. You're afraid of getting hurt while on a horse; I'm sure someday my sailing will do me in. (A bucking horse or a bucking deck of a boat are equally dangerous).

Here's to hoping we both stay well for many years to come!

Dean , , Lead Physio NHS October 11, 2011 1:49 PM

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