THE INS & OUTS OF PHYSICAL THERAPY NEAR ANDES – July 2010

By Judy Garrison

At O’Connor Hospital in Delhi, Part 2: 

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Patricia Cleary, PT (left) and Helen Russell-Tari, OTR (right)

I have to admit I was surprised at the range of services offered by O’Connor’s physical therapy department. Like any department of its kind they have the hot and cold packs, various monitors and gym equipment. But they also offer a lot of specialized testing and rehabilitation equipment that I didn’t know existed. I interviewed Patricia Cleary, PT who is the Rehabilitation Services Manager, and Helen Russell-Tari, OTR, a licensed occupational therapist who was able to add her specialized range of skills to the department. Both women have extensive careers behind them in a variety of settings, and they are proud of the skills offered by their staff, which also includes a per diem speech pathologist.  A patient can come through the front door, and some do, but they aren’t covered by insurance. Their referrals come from pediatricians and other physicians, PAs, dentists, midwives, and optometrists. An example of one of the latter could be someone experiencing vertigo or other balance and vision difficulties. Some of the many conditions treated in the clinic are neurological diseases such as M.S., brain injury, stroke, closed head injury, orthopedic deformities, rotator cuff problems, and babies with torticollis. They offer a wheelchair and assisted technology clinic to help those in wheelchairs to be more self-sufficient.

I was curious about the special role of the occupational therapy program. Helen stressed that this is an amazing resource unique to this department, and that they receive referrals here from all over the state. She described in detail how someone with macular degeneration who can’t pour liquid, for example, could be taught to make a brain adjustment and function better in their daily life using exercises, manipulative equipment and prism glasses. They also have protocols for vestibular rehabilitation for people with balance problems who may have thought they had to live with an incurable condition. I tried out some of the equipment that helps them assess and work with balance problems. And I also was treated to the experience of a computerized bio-feedback program. I could see a color mapping of my rear end as I sat on a specialized pillow, which lit up in contrasting colors as I switched positions. They use this fun technology tool to graphically demonstrate to patient and therapist alike how the patient is sitting and then teach her how she can alter her physical position to alleviate the discomfort of pressure sores. Who knew how current technology could deal with the age-old problem of bedsores!

The department also offers specialized cranio-sacral therapy, especially helpful to people with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and who suffer migraine headaches. And they run a cardio-pulmonary program. People who suffer emphysema, for instance, can be monitored after exercise on their equipment and given goals and a treatment program that will enable them to increase their endurance.

It was hard for someone not familiar with the field such as myself to fully register the range of the department’s offerings. I almost skipped one of them. As I was about to leave Pat remembered to show me the room where they provide functional testing to companies such as DMV International Nutritionals in Fraser. A job applicant is put through a series of tests that include lifting and pulling to determine if he is physically capable of performing the job functions for which he is a candidate.~