What pain has taught me
by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager
One thing that I appreciate about my job is that I’m always learning things. Given that this is my first job that is even remotely in the healthcare realm (I was a Spanish major in college, if that tells you anything about my strengths), I’ve definitely picked up some knowledge and phrases over the past six years. (Don’t even get me started on the labyrinth that is Medicare terminology.) But recently I’ve realized that there are some things you can’t learn from meetings or training sessions. Sometimes, you have an experience that allows you to grow and gain a deeper understanding. And if you’re lucky, it leads to empathy.
I mentioned in a previous post that about two months ago, I fell and broke my shoulder. It was a failed attempt by me and my husband to celebrate our wedding anniversary by taking a ski trip out West. I’ve never had a serious bone break before, at least not one that required surgery and lots of pain medication. I can honestly say that, while I was fairly uncomfortable before and after surgery, it was nothing compared to what I experienced when physical therapy began.
I am so brilliant (sarcasm intended) that I scheduled many of my PT sessions for 8:30 in the morning. My thought was, “I’ll do it before I get to work and get it out of the way!”
If I could go back in time to six weeks ago when I was scheduling my appointments, I would slap myself in the face.
Physical therapy hurts. A lot. There were times I would come into the office with mascara streaks down the sides of my face because I couldn’t keep the tears in. And here’s the problem: pain has the capacity to color your entire day — and not a bright, happy color either. I found that my patience was lowered to practically nill, and I was an emotional mess. And this lasted ALL DAY. By the time I got home, I was extremely sore, exhausted, and often weepy (and an absolute joy to live with I’m sure — just ask my husband).
Here’s where the empathy kicks in. If the pain of physical therapy can bring me to such a low point, I can’t even imagine how our patients handle it. We have individuals with serious diseases who suffer from extremely difficult symptoms. By the time they come to us, they (and their family members) are often at the end of their ropes. I was in pain for one day at a time; they’ve been in pain for months, sometimes years. Needless to say, I have a newfound respect for those under our care. I can’t even begin to compare my experience to theirs, but I can understand their behavior, their attitude, and their feelings just a little bit more.
I’m so glad that HPCCR has knowledgeable and well-trained experts in pain management. Yes, I have a newfound respect for our patients, but I have elevated our clinicians to rock star status. They offer relief. And relief from pain is like the first sip of water after a long, hard run. It’s rainbows and unicorns and really, really delicious cupcakes. When pain subsides, you have clarity and perspective again. You have hope.
I really like learning things. Honestly I do. But I hope the next thing I learn is how soft the sand is on the beaches of Waikiki.
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