Physical Therapy to Recover from Accident-Caused Disabilities
I wheel Jim, my patient for occupational therapy, out of the building. It will be his first time in eight weeks to see the sun and feel its warmth. We have started his sessions four weeks ago, after undergoing two surgeries after the accident. And when he is strong enough, hopefully his physical therapy will also commence. He is in good hands here in the Colorado Neurological Institute.
Jim has been a difficult patient, particularly because the accident he was in, took the lives of two of his children, with the baby surviving with barely a scratch. Thanks to a really good car seat, the infant was securely fastened and protected the entire time. The guilt he feels is immense and even though I have been in this kind of work for over ten years now, it seems there are not enough words to comfort and console people who are trying to recover from both physical and emotional loss.
But I always make it a point to find a common ground, so that I can remind the patient that there is so much to live for in life. His case is another one of drunk driving – by the other driver, who caused the accident. He was careful, followed traffic rules, a caring dad, and yet, it seems all his efforts went for naught. The irony of it, is the drunk driver survived. He is filled with guilt, but nothing will ever measure up to the loss he caused Jim’s young family.
Today, as we welcome spring, I asked Jim’s wife and mother to join us as I take him out to just enjoy the crisp air and hopefully find meaning in the beginning of the season. I always like this season because it heralds warmer days, where we it brings a bit more freedom from the layers of warm clothing. It is a good thing that he has the unconditional support of his wife, even though she herself is still grieving. There is something about having a very young child that somehow reminds adults of what life is all about.
I have seen too many patients go through the pain of recovery and find themselves broken in spirit and not just in their limbs. The latter heals, but the former takes a bit more time, never to be totally forgotten nor healed.
As we approach the benches, I see Jim gently smile. I looked ahead and saw his wife Sue, their baby Tucker, and his mom, Karen, with cake and flowers. I know that Sue’s presence is especially crucial, because even though the accident was not Jim’s fault, he needed a reminder that Sue is not blaming him. And if at one time she did, her smile and the love in her eyes show that all is well and forgiven.
The baby gurgles, as if saying everything will be alright. He waves his hands about, and Sue gently lifts him out of his carrier and lifts him towards Jim so he could kiss his chubby cheeks. There are no words at this time, only the love and compassion of a family grieving together.