I was at the hospital with my Mom and we were enjoying some of the young people who came in all dressed up to show their family members. This brought so much enjoyment to the whole ward! At a certain point, I had a very unique perspective. When I looked down one hallway there were two people in my line of vision, a little boy dressed as Superman and a nurse, dressed as, well...a nurse. It was only later that it occurred to me who the real super hero was in that hallway.
If you were lucky enough to grow up as I did, in an environment where everyone was relatively healthy, it was hard to have a real understanding of what exactly caregivers did. Nurses were tidy women who wore pointy hats (they weren't even hats, really, more like origami...how did they keep them on??) who always seemed to want to take your temperature. Later on in my experience, nurses were people who handed you squalling newborns and tried to help you understand that yes, you have to take this bundle home, and yes, you will be fine!
A Physiotherapist was someone who treated athletes with bad shoulders, and an Occupational Therapist was, well, to be honest I'm not even sure what I thought OTs did. They sounded to me like people who came into your workplace, took away your office chair, and tried to get you to sit on one of those ridiculous giant exercise balls instead. (For the record, I think this is a terrible idea. No offence to the dear OTs but imagine how much coffee would be spilled if everyone did this??) And of course, rehab, well that was something that Steven Tyler did.
In my recent experience, I have discovered a brand new legion of super heroes: Rehabilitation Unit therapists and caregivers. I can barely manage to put into words what these people do every day and the difference they make in so many lives. It is difficult to imagine a sudden life changing event that leaves you unable to walk or unable to make any number of the regular movements that get you through each day. Equally difficult to imagine is slowly being able to recover those abilities. It does indeed feel hopeless at first, but in the last two months I have had a front row seat as I watched people progress from a bed to a wheelchair, to a walker and often to more independence than they believed possible. I have heard people begin to speak after weeks of silence.
The nurses, therapists and their support staff become family. They always greet their patients by name and are constantly teaching, guiding, supporting and cheering on every success, no matter how small. They hand out hope like we hand out Halloween treats. There is no 30 second television commercial that can convey how hard they work and how important that work is.
To the men and women of the 7th Floor Rehabilitation Unit at Saskatoon City Hospital, Thank you. When someone asks you what you do for a living, please do not say, “I am a nurse,” or “I am a therapist.” Tell them what you really do.