Browsing "Occupational Therapy"

Semester One Recap

I have one semester of my doctorate under my belt.

Holy frijoles. What a semester!

doctorate, school, day one

I now know anything anyone could care to know about Florida House Bill 943 and can articulate a growth theory which likens our lives to a river blocked with rocks and aided by driftwood. I am a more knowledgable clinician now.

But what do I give up to do this?

I give up home cooking and instead I throw together meals and wraps last minute. I give up watching shows or keeping up with current events. I give up flexibility and spontaneity.

And what do I gain? Knowledge. Goals. Excitement about future possibilities.

I made a pact with myself to keep school in its corner and not let it expand and take over my world. I made a decision to be the World’s Okayest Student. I wanted to do mediocre work! And if you know me, you know that I am a perfectionist especially when it comes to school!

okayest student cup doctorate


I believe school is important and hard work will help my patients and possible students in the future, but I’m not willing to give up relationships and ministry to do it. I want to strive for more and be content with where I am. In the wise words of Cool Runnings, “If you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.” That includes doctorates, and relationships, and houses, and children, and jobs, and bank accounts, and awards. If you are in need of this reminder, as I am: You are enough. Just as you are.

Balance and adventure. Determination and relaxation. Mediocrity and ambition. These pairs of juxtaposing ideas have circled in my head throughout the entire year. But in the midst of all of it, I am enough.

I can work out of my worth instead of working for it.

In this knowledge, bring on next semester!


Doctoral Woes, Week One

I’m one week into my doctoral career. Whew. What a week. It seems like at least a month has passed since I started classes. One week down. One hundred fifty to go. I’ve read chapters of books. Learned more about public policy than I ever thought I’d know. I’ve already been through all the emotions.

Syllabus shock? Check.

Countdown to graduation? Check.

Tuition payment? Double check.


I’ve said the following sentences multiple times each:

“This is so interesting!”

“What have I gotten myself into?”
One week in, what have I learned?

doctorate, school, day one

Life is an adventure. I cannot see past the next wave. I know there will be times that I question why I’m doing this to myself. But, as I’ve often reminded myself, this is not a whim decision. I have been thinking about more school for years. As my friend Abby reminded me, “Kelly, you know those things we’ve been praying about for years… they’re here!” I’m trying to be ready. I’m trying to appreciate the answers to myriads of prayers. I’m trying to see the fun in not knowing what the future holds.

Among the many decorative items I have in my room, a particularly special one is a watercolor which reads, “But what if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” I want to risk, to try new things, to be willing to risk falling if it means that I won’t miss the joy of flying. Maybe you can relate to that. Every new phase requires risk and brings along it’s companion fear with it. But sometimes the fear of taking my feet off the ground pales in comparison to the joy of flight. Do the thing you think you cannot do. Risk. Take the adventure. Your prayers are being heard. My darling, what if you fly?


What life adventure both scares and thrills you at the moment?


I feel like an iceberg.

Not because I’m cold, remote, or danger-prone, but because people only see about 10% of me. Icebergs barely pop their tops above the water-line. They look small, cute, and manageable. But people miss the 90% lying just below the waterline.alaska glacier ice

For me, this is especially true at work. I am an occupational therapist in pediatrics. I work with babies to help them grow, strengthen, and develop. To the untrained eye, it looks like I have a pretty cushy job: I cuddle babies, change diapers, attend meetings, and do a lot of typing. But this is only the above-the-water-line-ten-percent! But I work hard! Beneath the surface I research and think about joint stability, muscle tone, bone mineralization, neuronal connections, calorie conservation, and neuroprotection. I know that each child’s brain is literally maturing in my hands and that brain wiring is for a lifetime and I take that job very seriously. Yes, I snuggle babies, but with so much purpose! Some days are difficult. I feel undervalued or overlooked because 90% of my skills, mass, interests, and work is unseen.

But I am not alone in this! I believe the iceberg-phenomenon is true of so many people and professions! Doctors don’t just give prescriptions, accountants don’t just balance ledgers, teachers don’t just give grades, moms don’t just feed their kids and attack the ever-growing pile of laundry. You are more than the 10% that people can readily see. You cannot be reduced to a productivity percentage, or sales quota, or salary, or GPA. Those numbers are just the 10%. Take pride in the knowledge, passion, skills, and purpose you have. That is the weighty and important 90%.

If you can relate to this, then you are an iceberg.

Be an iceberg with purpose! Work hard. Be aware of the 90% that people often miss, but don’t rely on their approval or understanding of all your work. Work for a higher purpose. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Cor 10:31). Work for the Lord, the only One who can truly know and appreciate both the 10% that everyone sees and the 90% that is hidden.

Or as Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.”

Be an iceberg. Work with purpose. Do your job, whatever it may be, well. That’s the best way to show the importance of the 90% that drives you daily.


How do you feel like an iceberg either professionally or personally? Do people see or understand your 90%?



“Kelly, what will your legacy be?”

That question as posed to me recently at work. We had a department-wide meeting during which we made a “legacy quilt”. We were each charged to write a sentence on a square of decorative paper which would be knit together to form a paper quilt of quotes and desires.

One sentence.

One phrase.

Once idea.

That’s all the space we had!

I’ve practiced occupational therapy for a decade. I was in grad school for years. I have worked with hundreds of patients of all ages and I just get one sentence to encompass all of that?!

As a writer, this was an especially challenging task– after all, words are my friends! I want to use them, as many as possible! I wasted several sheets trying to write the longest, most hyphenated, run-on sentence ever created in order to jam pack the more ideas into my small paper square.

But that’s not what I really wanted. Medical jargon doesn’t change lives. My skills and metrics are important and I should consistently work on them, but they aren’t my legacy. My employment epitaph shall not read, “Kelly knew every trigger point release in the upper trunk.”

It shall not read, “Kelly achieved productivity every day.”

It shall not read, “Kelly read more peer-reviewed articles than anyone else in the department.”

No. I finally knew what I wanted my legacy quilt to say. It was so simple, I don’t know why I’d tried to hard to write such a complicated sentence! In the end my paper simply read, “Life Matters.”

That’s what I want my legacy to be. People are important. People have dignity. People are made in the Image of God and are worthy of my best efforts every day. I want this to be true for every infant, child, family member, coworker and person with whom I interact.

Hello, dear reader. You are important! You matter!


“The future is purchased by the present.” Dr. Samuel Johnson

What will your legacy be?

Feeling Seen at Christmas

I got my holiday schedule and noticed the plethora of days on which I had been scheduled to work. Including the entire week of Christmas. Sigh. I was initially grumpy and worried that it would be a hard week. I’d be alone in my house. Alone on Christmas. (Play violin music here).

But several factors made me feel very seen this Christmas. Seen and loved.

  1. Visitors! I had some surprise visitors including my parents, brother, and friend Tracy who adjusted their schedules to spend some time with me this Christmas. Their presence and willingness to adjust their schedules to accommodate mine changed my attitude immensely. Here are Tracy and I in our all our natural beauty.kelly tracy funny face
  2. Food! My sweet friends, Wendy and Mandi, made lunch for my team and delivered it Christmas Eve. It changed my entire day. I was able to notify my fellow therapists that an elf came to deliver treats! We were giddy. Truly. It had been a hard morning, and this magic salad turned our days around. These women were able to provide in practical ways to care for those who care for others. We all felt noticed and loved.IMG_2915 food delivery
  3. 3. Perspective! Many of my friends who heard about my schedule texted, called or messaged me to tell me how important my work was and how special this week could be if I went in with the right perspective. I was able to provide love, cheer, and tiny snuggles to my patients who were stuck in the hospital too. One of my friends, whose son has spent more than his fair share of time in hospitals, thanked me personally for working. It struck me how powerful that moment was because she knows what it is like to parent in the hospital. She understands what it is like to try to sleep next to her little one with monitor alarms and hourly rounding interrupting her. She has experienced staff with bad attitudes which can ruin an interaction and with good attitudes who can be a breath of fresh air. I’m determined to have a good attitude for her, her son, and everyone else in a similar situation.

    Thank you to everyone who cared for me while I cared for others. Thanks for making my Christmas memorable, merry, and purposeful.

What made YOUR Christmas merry this year?

Hospitals Don’t Get Holidays

To celebrate Christmas this year, I am wearing scrubs with a festive vest overtop and snowflake hair flair. This year I’m celebrating a working Christmas. I will be at the hospital performing evals, doing therapy, facilitating discharge processes and providing tiny snuggles. (And helping to make this little rehab patient!)

gingerbread candy cane walker

I must admit, I was pretty grumpy when I got the holiday schedule this year. It took some time for me to realize that this was not a curse, but an opportunity. I could bless my co-workers and allow them to celebrate with their families and I could provide love to my patients and their families in a very tender place as they celebrated Christmas morning in decorated hospital rooms instead of at home.

Truly, it was delightful. I dressed up ridiculously (as mentioned above) in order to provide a little holiday merriment to everyone I encountered. And I had purpose. I determined to provide a little love to those kids and babies whose families could not be with them this morning. I was going to hold, rock, play with, and pray for my patients. And it would be a beautiful day.

I provided hugs to a few family members who were grieving the fact that their little one was hospitalized instead of home for the typical Christmas morning experience. I adjusted bedding and positioning for babies to they could be comfortable, save calories, grow, and go home sooner. I helped another get out of bed after surgery so he could play with his new toys. It was a good day. Hospitals don’t get holidays because illness doesn’t take a holiday. So compassion and care shouldn’t either.

Nov 17, 2014 - Health, Occupational Therapy    2 Comments

World Prematurity Day

I did not write this. But oh how I wish I had! As I celebrate World Prematurity Day today, I see not only my patients but their families struggling so much to deal with an ICU stay for the tiniest member of their family. I too see you.


I SEE YOU by Jodi Dolezel:

I have read your blog posts and your Facebook statuses, I have had the honor of getting to know a lot of you through social media, and I have watched and cheered your children on from the NICU days through early childhood. I have had the privilege of meeting some of you in person, and I must say you are an amazing group of people. You have candidly shared your thoughts, your lives, your children, and your heart with me, and I am truly grateful to have this bird’s-eye view of your world.

Being a NICU parent is hard. I know this, not because I am one, but because you have allowed me into your world and have given me a perspective that I would never have been able to have without this gift you have given me. To see through your eyes, to understand what it is like to walk in your shoes, and to really grasp the other end of the spectrum from your point of view. It is a gift, and I am, and will be forever be, grateful for it.

I know I don’t understand, and I will never understand completely what it is like to be you. Nor do I pretend to understand what you are going through. But I do want you to know that I get it. I get that having a child prematurely or spending time in the NICU is not what you had planned, and it is extremely hard watching your child suffer, feeling so helpless and full of fear. Having a medically fragile child is difficult, and you may feel alone, isolated, or invisible. But today, I want you to know that you are not alone, you are not invisible, and that I see you.

I see you rushing into the NICU with your hair pulled back and your sweatpants on. Bending over at the sink scrubbing your hands with intent, hoping and praying that you made it in time for the 8 a.m. feeding. You are beautiful.

I see you sitting at your child’s bedside, journal in hand, writing down your baby’s latest statistics: weight, isolette temperature, amount of oxygen, and ventilator settings. Things that no parent should ever have to think or worry about, but you do it. You are brave.

I see you walking the halls to the maternity ward to get a drink from the vending machine. You pass by a couple taking a stroll with their newborn baby in tow in a bassinet. They look so happy, you smile as they pass. The look on your face is one of admiration, but you march on. You are resilient.

I see you unpacking your never-ending pumping supplies, lining up your bottles, and preparing for your next power session, even though you did this routine just two hours ago. You are dedicated.

I see you standing over your baby’s isolette, counting down the hours until the next “hands on care,” longing to touch and hold your child, and praying you will get to have kangaroo care time today. You are loving.

I see you as other new parents enter the NICU for the first time. They are scared, nervous, and afraid of what the future holds. You too are worried about the future, but I see you approach them and offer a shoulder to lean or cry on. I see you explain to them the ropes, telling them that it won’t be easy, but assuring them that you are there if they need your help. You are compassionate.

I see you as the neonatologist leaves your baby’s bedside after giving you an update and the plan for the day. You look puzzled and somewhat afraid. Confused by the medical terminology, you ask questions, and you begin to research and learn all that you can about your child’s diagnosis and possible future. You are an advocate.

I see you as your family and friends visit your child, who has now been in the NICU for weeks on end. They ask questions, the wonder, and they sometimes make uninformed or even hurtful comments. They may fail to recognize that this journey is long and hard, not just for your baby, but for you, too. You don’t get upset. You answer their questions politely, and educate them as best you can, and then you thank them for their concerns. You are amazing.

I see you as you perform diaper changes through all the wires, tubes, and machines. You look beyond all this medical machinery and smile in admiration of your little fighter. You have been through so much, you have seen so much, and you have loved so deeply and abundantly through it all. You are courageous.

You spend countless hours worrying about, defending, and advocating for your baby. You spend days, weeks, months, and often years beyond the NICU experience learning best therapies and best medical devices, finding the best doctors and the best schools for your child. You may be burdened with huge medical bills. You may feel isolated and alone in this new NICU world and beyond these doors in the years to come. But today, I want you to know that you are not alone and you are not invisible. I can never truly say that I understand everything that you have been through, because I haven’t walked in your shoes. But I hope you can hear my heart when I say I get it. I see you.

I see you when you’re tired and at the end of your rope, but you truck on. I see you when your patience is wearing thin but you continue on with determination. I see the amazing strength you possess for your little one. I see you when you are astonished by the wonder of your tiny brave hero as you celebrate another amazing milestone. I see you when you are left standing between your baby and this sometimes cruel and critical world we live in. I see it all, and I see you.

I acknowledge you.

I admire you.


I applaud you.


Jodi Dolezel is a Registered Nurse and currently works in a single room family centered care level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care in the Charlotte, NC area. Jodi is also the founder and facilitator of Peekaboo ICU, where this post first appeared.


Jun 30, 2014 - Occupational Therapy    No Comments

A Pound of Life

Most of the patients I work with have negative ages.

They are premature, born months before they were “supposed” to be. Thrust from the safe, warm, dark, cozy wombs, they are ill-prepared for the world. Developmentally, I must think of them and work on skills that are fitting for a baby at 6-9 months gestational age. Even though they’ve been born, they must pick up strength, flexion, midline orientation and state regulation outside of the womb since they missed that chance inside the womb.

I often describe to parents that the womb is the first baby gym saying, “When your baby kicks, and strains, and plays with your kidneys, he is getting stronger, building muscle tone and strength, experiencing good proprioception and preparing for the world. But most of my patients check out of the baby gym early. And we have to fill in the gap.”

This month’s Time Magazine cover article discusses the trials, research and care for preterm infants. It follows one family through their NICU stay and discusses the many and varied disciplines who help their son grow and flourish.

The article ends with these sentences, “In some ways, the work of the NICU will always seem like an exercise in disproportion — an army of people and a mountain of infrastructure caring for a pound of life. But it’s a disproportion that speaks very well of us.”

That shocked me. But in a good way. I know that I do what I do because life is valuable. No matter how early or ill the infant, their life is important and worth fighting for. I believe this because I believe all humans are made in the image of God and endowed with dignity because of this fact. (Genesis 1:26-28) I am happy to be a part of that disproportion. I am happy to research, learn, and fight for a pound of life. I am happy that Time Magazine recognizes and applauds the disproportion. I too believe that this disproportion speaks well of us.

Life is valuable. Life is worth fighting for.


May 21, 2014 - Occupational Therapy    No Comments

Crafting Thumb

My hands hate me.

I haven’t been good to them lately. Right before the Gifts of Grace Craft Fair, I went crafting crazy. I sat each night and created. And hunched over, and cut, and bent metal, and used pliers, and threaded beads, and made my crafting thumb flair up.

crafting thumbStill giving the thumbs up!

I love crafting. It is a good thing.

But perhaps not the best thing. (Often the case when a good thing is overdone!)

When I have to use my occupational therapy skills to heal myself and get twinges of nerve pain from the length of time spent in fine motor control and precise movements, that good thing has lost some of its goodness. I’ve been thinking a ton lately about the difference between good and best. I am surrounded by good things and good choices. I have dozens of options open to me. Deciding which of all my good choices is the best keeps me up at night. Crafting is a good thing. I want to continue pursuing it in a good and balanced way — in that area of life, that will be what is best!

I’m using my nightly brace donning as a visual reminder of the difference between good and best.

What about you? What good thing has lost some of its goodness?


Celebrating Occupational Therapy Month

OT, ryan gossling


I’m celebrating OT Month. And so is Ryan Gosling. (Thanks for the support, Ry!)

I often think OT is the hidden gem of the rehab world. It’s focus is so broad and all-encompassing and patient-specific that at times it is hard to define. Until everyone knows, I educate  one person at a time. And I labor to make the world a more functional place!

Do you need help putting on your pants, driving, cooking or balancing your check book? Does your child need help crawling, writing, or focusing in school? Do you have weakness, incoordination, or imbalance? Do you need a splint? I can help with that! And I’ll help creatively with tasks and activities that are important and meaningful to YOU!

I’m celebrating Occupational Therapy Month because I made the right career choice and I love my job!

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