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  • Occupational Therapy helps patient get a hand on walking her dog

    April is Occupational Therapy Month. Occupational Therapy is treatment that helps people who have been injured or impaired regain the ability to do the activities of daily life. Although this therapy may not be as well known or understood as its cousin physical therapy, for those who have benefitted from this treatment it can be life changing.

    Just ask Betty Kobernuss of Taberg, who had really never thought much about occupational therapy until she needed it and was treated by Michelle Casab OTR/L, at Rome Memorial Hospital’s Chestnut Commons Physical and Occupational Therapy Services.

    It happened the Friday before Thanksgiving last year. It was a beautiful day and Betty had been inside a lot with a bout of bronchitis so she was enjoying the sunshine and fresh air with her new 8 month old boxer puppy, Cokie. She and her husband were training the puppy and had her on an adjustable length leash.

    “Dave went inside for something and I changed the length of the lead from 6 feet to 16 feet because I was going to throw a ball for the dog to fetch,” Betty explained. “Cokie was excited to run and I was excited and not thinking so instead of gathering up the leash I actually was standing right in the middle of it. When the dog ran it caught my foot and pulled my feet right out from under me and down I went.”

    Betty had a broken wrist and a broken foot. After looking at her x-rays, her doctor explained that only one bone in her wrist was broken and surgery really would not give her any better function than immobilizing her wrist and allowing it to heal. At Betty’s age of 81, the physician felt that immobilization was the best option for her. Once she had healed, the doctor told Betty that she would need occupational therapy to regain strength and function in her wrist and hand.

    “I was not eager to undergo surgery, and was surprised and glad when my doctor offered a non-surgical treatment and explained fully what that implied,” Betty said.

    Betty had to wear a brace on her wrist for about eight weeks while the fractured bone mended. Made of plastic and nylon with Velcro fasteners, the brace could be taken off when she showered but other than that she had to wear it constantly.

    “I couldn’t do anything,” Betty sighed. “I couldn’t drive, cook, type on my computer, nothing. My husband had to do everything for me. I had no use of my hand at all. It was like a club.”

    When the brace finally came off, Betty said that she still felt like her hand was useless. She was unable to bend her fingers or move her hand and she still had a lot of pain. That’s when Michelle came into the picture.

    “Both my husband and I had been to Chestnut Commons Physical and Occupational Therapy Services for physical therapy before and had great experiences there, so that is the first place we thought of when the doctor recommended occupational therapy for my hand,” Betty explained. “When I met Michelle, I was so glad that I came here.”

    Betty said her therapy began with a hot paraffin bath for her sore hand and wrist that “felt so good.” After that, she said that each of her treatment sessions included a “corn husk” shower. This is a type of fluidotherapy which creates dry thermal heated air streaming and flowing through and over finely granulated particles in a chamber. A convection-formed vortex levitates and moves the particles providing a powerful, non-penetration, warm massaging action that assists in relieving pain and discomfort while increasing circulation.

    “Michelle would massage and stretch my hand and wrist, it felt like she was pushing things back where they belonged,” Betty said. “She really knows where things are hooked together and she almost always had some technique that would help to relieve pain in specific areas.”

    Betty admitted that sometimes the therapy was a bit painful, but she could tell from the very first session that it was helping.

    “Sometimes Michelle would give me an exercise to do and I would think ‘I will do this because she is such a nice person and I don’t want to disappoint her, but I can’t imagine that this exercise will work,’ but guess what, the exercises did exactly what she said they would do,” Betty laughed.

    It took 20 sessions of therapy spread over 11 weeks, but Betty has regained full use of her hand. Betty says that she actually enjoyed the time she spent at Chestnut Commons Physical and Occupational Therapy Services and she would recommend them to anyone who needs physical or occupational therapy.

    “Michelle is very pleasant, kind, gentle and effective,” Betty said. “We had some great conversations while she was working on my hand and wrist and I could not be happier with the end result. I can drive again and type, and even do hand stitching and I’m beginning to work in my garden. But most importantly, I can hold on to the leash when I take Cokie out for a walk.”

    Located at 107 E. Chestnut St., Rome, Chestnut Commons Physical and Occupational Therapy Services provide physical, occupational and vestibular rehabilitation. For more information or to make an appointment with a physician’s order, please call 315-338-7952.

    Betty Kobernuss OT 
    OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY – Michelle Casab, left, occupational therapist
     at Chestnut Commons Physical and Occupational Therapy Services,
     107 E. Chestnut St., helped Betty Kobernuss regain use of her hand
    after she fractured her wrist. Occupational Therapy is treatment that
     helps people who have been injured or impaired regain the ability to
     do the activities of daily life.