Browsing "Occupational Therapy"
Nov 27, 2013 - Occupational Therapy    1 Comment

Life in the NICU

Somethings on YouTube are just for fun, some are educational, some are ridiculous, and some are life changing. This particular video strikes close to home for me. I work with the littlest of patients. Those who have more wires than they are weeks old. I am surrounded by stories like this everyday. One father made this touching tribute to celebrate his wife and his son.

This video summarizes why I do what I do.


Addendum: The maker of the video, has removed it from several sites. Hopefully these links will let you see the joy!

The video can also be seen at:

Nov 10, 2013 - Occupational Therapy    1 Comment

Not Your Average Middle School

Middle school.

I’ll wait for you to swallow your bile. Those two words can cause a visceral reaction in many people. Middle school is an awkward time. Full of changes, shifting roles and hierarchy — and kids trying to navigate it all. It is the strangest time in school with some kids looking as though they should still be in diapers and others with five o’clock shadows in fifth period. So much change in such a short period of time.

As I’ve talked with kids having a tough time during the middle school years, I’ve frequently said, “Everyone wants to be audaciously average.” That is, we want to strive to be squarely in the middle of the pack, not developing too early, but certainly not too late.

But what about kids that aren’t average or have trouble fitting in? Typically such individuals are shunned for their differences, but occasionally, joyfully, others don’t shame them for their differences, but support and encourage them.

Olivet Middle School, this is dedicated to you.

Mary Poppins

I got a lot of stolen glances on my way into work last Thursday… and not the good kind. People flat out stared, whispered, did double takes, and cocked eye brows.

Then the questions started:

“Are you the super nanny?”

“Are you Canadian?”

Or, my personal favorite:

“Are you from nutritional services? When will my lunch be here?”

I’m not sure exactly what part of my ensemble warranted each of these questions, but they made me giggle. I was told that the pediatric unit had a costume party and they wanted all the staff to participate. So I thought, GoodWill to the rescue!

Here’s what I came up with:

Mary Poppins


Most of the parents knew who I was, while their youngsters just knew I looked funny. I had a few props like a spoon and sugar, and I was able to pull a canister of oxygen out of my magic carpet bag! I spent $8 at GoodWill and brought a lot of laughter, smiles, and quizzical looks to those I work with.

My day was practically perfect in every way.


Oct 19, 2013 - Occupational Therapy    1 Comment

Sock Hop!

I dug through my costume box and broke out this skirt (that my mom made me when I was nine years old!) for a very special event.

Sock hop

My friends are involved with a local ministry, Lift Disability, which caters to children with disabilities and their families. As part of this ministry, they host monthly outings to give the kids a chance to play and the parents a chance to mingle. Last month’s event was a sock hop, hence the get up!

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I spend most days working with kids with disabilities so I’m not uncomfortable in that arena at all, but I felt out of my element this night. Not because of the kids; because my role was different. I wasn’t attending this night as a therapist. I didn’t have the luxury of reading medical records or knowing what milestones were achieved ahead of time. I found myself diagnosing people at first, until I realized, that wasn’t the point. I was not an OT at this event, I was a friend. When I realized this, it was very freeing. I participated in the hula hop competition, danced, helped with the photo booth and got to spend the evening playing with hilarious, creative, shy, playful kids. Realizing my role made the night much more enjoyable.

Has such an epiphany ever happened to you?


Surprising Manicures

Meet Marla, my coworker and teammate extraordinaire.

These are her hands.


No, she did not paint her nails while impaired. She allowed one of our patients to paint her nails. We had goals to work on fine motor control and stability exercises for this little girl who loved to have her own nails painted. So they traded manicures as one way to address this goal.

Sometimes I get bogged down with some of the sad stories I encounter at work or trying to keep up with my own productivity standards. I continually fight to achieve balance that is all too often it is fleeting.

But this moment was beautiful. Who else gets to have a laugh over the state of her nails and know that it was purposeful and therapeutic? It was a great reminder to me why I work so hard to do what I do.

Thanks for sharing, Marla!


Friday Night Fatigue

I’m done.

Tuck me in. Put me to bed.

It was a long week. We were extra busy in the NICU and lower staffed due to holidays both of which added up to longer hours for yours truly. I did great, right up until two o’clock today. That’s when I hit the magical divide between regular time and overtime, and my brain revolted. My body tensed up. My energy evaporated. 

Is this what full time feels like? How do people do it? Especially people come home to children and caregiving or homework or a second job. Goodness, I’m thankful I only have to feed myself tonight!

I want to have balance in life. My work should not rule all my decisions. But I spend more time at work than at any other entity, so it should guide many of my decisions — like going to bed on time or turning down a Monday night outing so as not to star the week tired. I also don’t want to straggle into the weekend, spent and panting. I want to have energy and motivation to spend time with others and make the most of my weekends instead of thinking of them as solely recuperation days. I’m still trying to figure out this tenuous balancing act.

So far my jaunt into adulthood has left me feeling blessed to have such an amazing job where I get to treat children and make a difference… but also in need of my own nap time!


One Month In…

I’m certain that my brain is more wrinkled than it was a month ago.

Today I celebrate my One-Month-a-Versary at my new job.

I worked in Neuro rehabilitation for six years. I had a rhythm, a routine. In short, I was a rock-u-pational therapist. But now with the kids, and especially with the babies, everything is new and I have to think about every hand placement, every reflex, every respiratory rate a little differently.

In short, my brain hurts. It’s been working overtime.

Last week I had a moment where I was holding a tiny infant, born several months early and still significantly before her due date. She strained and splayed and stretched before finally snuggled her little nasal-cannulated face into my chest and relaxing. I checked a few reflexes, my eyes darting from her face to the vital signs monitor a few times to check how she was doing internally. But then I stopped and thought, with baby sweetly sleeping in my arms, “Oh my golly, this is my job!”


It was a sweet epiphany.

But I’ve also had hard epiphanies. I’ve treated more than a few kids who were admitted because of abuse, neglect, or other (what I will graciously call) “avoidable conditions.” I’ve had kids with poor prognoses, who will not develop normally, who will always have a scar because of some ordeal endured in-utero or shortly thereafter. It is at those times that I think, “Oh my golly, this is my job.”

I’m determined not to be hardened by the circumstances that I see day in and day out. I’m determined to treat each little life as valuable regardless of prognosis. I’m determined to be thankful for snuggling moments and for the opportunity to rehabilitate kids, or as I like to call it play with a purpose. I’m determined to learn and grow as a therapist and as a person to treat and to heal the best that I can.

One month in — I am thankful. Wrinkly brain and all.


Friends with Benefits

I just finished my first week in my new job.

(Insert obligatory first day of school picture with lunch box here)


I was oriented, trained, educated, evaluated, queried, and most of all encouraged.

I was encouraged by my trainers that I was picking up things fast,  asking great questions and even offering suggestions for future treatment sessions. I made one cry because she said my documentation of the treatment session was so thorough and descriptive.

I was also encouraged that so many people on my former team checked in on me, asked me to lunch, texted me to check in, and were excited to see me when we passed in the hallway. I even got a spectacular package filled with notes from my little friend Valor AND my TSA-confiscated Kelly Jelly!!

Kelly Jelly

I am thankful for the new challenge and the growth as a practitioner. I am thankful to care for the least and the littlest and to show them love and compassion and skill and hope. I am thankful for my new team and how they have been so excited to rally with me. I am thankful for a stable job, a regular schedule, and especially for the addition of benefits. I felt encouraged by others all week, but one text is officially my favorite. My friend and co-worker, Twan, texted me early Monday morning on my first day of work and cheekily asked, “So now that you’ve started your new job, does that mean we’re friends… with benefits!”

Yes, Twan, joyfully it does!

Hurry Up and Wait

I’m in the airport right now.

I checked in online, went through security, had my prized, homemade “Kelly Jelly” confiscated due to being over 3 ounces, (Alas! Alack!) bought some Starbucks, and arrived at my gate. And now I wait. (At least I’m traveling with my laptop this time. This is a first for me and it makes the time pass much faster!)

Starbucks Airport

I tend to get very anxious when flying. I never know exactly what to expect in terms of lines, arrival time, and sequencing of tasks. I’ve had some bad experiences and have missed international flights before. I once stood in line at the checkin counter at Heathrow for over three hours and missed three flights to the United States. It was terrible. I was traveling alone and hit a low point after being awake for 36 hours and crying, while trying to sleep on top of my luggage at JFK unable to make the last leg home. It was traumatic.

So I get anxious — partially because of that experience, and partially because I am not a frequent flyer. I haven’t had enough experience to know exactly what to expect. I think that’s a pretty common fear in life: the unknown. Maybe the most common fear. I think about other unknowns in my life just around the corner. I could be anxious as I enter into a new job. I could think that I don’t know what to do or that I need to re-read every pediatric therapy book I own.

I could focus on the hurry up.

Or the wait.

I won’t feel comfortable immediately. I won’t be able to reassure my patients that I’ve worked with people with very similar issues, like I can in the neuro unit. I won’t know the name of every nurse or doctor or therapist on the pediatric units. But it will come. I’ll read and train and experience a new patient population, team, unit, and specialty. And I’ll rediscover that learning is my love language and my favorite pastime!

In life, I’m looking for a little less hurry up and a little more wait.

Bon Voyage!

Friday was an emotional day.

It was my last day at work. I’ve been at that hospital for six years and even though I’m moving to another team just a floor away, it feels like farther.  It feels like the end of an era. It feels final.

My team sent me off in style with dessert and a handmade Photo Booth. I was in charge of our office’s decorations and silly hats which we made our employee of the month wear in their photos. My team “decorated” like a tornado went through our office to prove that I needed to stay. And then each member dressed up in one of my ridiculous hats and took a picture with me.

PhotoGrid_May 13, 2013, 9_29 PM

It was perfect.

I didn’t want a plaque or a speech or to be doted upon unnecessarily. I wanted to have fun with my team. I wanted to laugh and be silly and show everyone’s personalities — all the people who have calmed me down after a terrible treatment session. The people who have encouraged me and helped me learn the complicated inner-workings of neuro rehabilitation. The people who have been there with me on Saturdays where a few brave souls do the work of the robust, fully-staffed weekday teams. The team who made up theme songs for every team member and sang and danced way too early in the mornings. (P.S. My song is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” A perfect choice.)

My team is rad. I am so thankful for their joyful send off as I enter a new adventure. I’ve grown as a therapist and as a person over the past six years. It’s because of these people that I’m ready and excited for my new job.

Thanks, friends.

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