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Front-liners and behind-the-scenes folks help us all

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Tommy Howard

Tommy Howard "washes the wall" with one of his exercises during physical therapy. With a broken shoulder bone, he's going to rehab twice a week to help build up strength and regain range of motion. The simple exercise is tough, but the staff at NextStep makes sure their patients are making progress.

Got my first shower in three months.

Boy-oh-boy, it felt good.

And no, I wasn’t “stinky,” either.

That shower was the first time I used my normal shower stall in three months, since I fell and broke my shoulder bone into three pieces.

When my wife and I had our home built we had a shower with small seats installed in the guest room or mother-in-law suite. That’s where I’ve been getting a shower since my fall.

My home health occupational therapist put in some grab bars I bought to help steady myself as I would get into that shower, get cleaned up and then dry off. Being able to sit down and use a flexible shower hose was a blessing.

As I wrote in an earlier article, it’s been quite an adventure.

You can read about it here, in this article from last November.

Everybody is facing challenges

With the worldwide pandemic from COVID-19 still around after a year, we’re pretty much all stressed out.

It’s a bother to have to wear a mask, cut down on eating out, shopping, keeping our “social distance” from one another, having to work from home and homeschool our kids and grandkids, and so much more.

You don’t need a journalist to tell you that, of course.

But something that might be good to hear in a first-person piece for a journalist is kudos to so many folks who are helping us all.

Too many to count

I can’t really count all the folks who are helping me through physical therapy and doctor’s visits.

I’ve tried, believe me, but there’s just so many.

When I tripped and fell outside a McDonald’s in Mount Pleasant on Thursday, Oct. 8, three Good Samaritans immediately helped me. A man offered to help me stand from my painful “seat” on the concrete sidewalk. I tried, but couldn’t get up. Two women also helped, talking with me, making sure I was speaking OK, and one called 911.

A couple of Mount Pleasant Fire/EMT men showed up soon, followed by an ambulance crew who checked me out, put my left arm in a sling and got me in an ambulance.

During that time, several other customers and a couple of McDonald’s employees asked how I was and offered to help.

From there, I went to the East Cooper Hospital. Probably three or four nurses helped, plus a clerical person got my personal and insurance information.

Then there were several other nurses, a couple of X-ray technicians, a physician’s assistant (PA), an ER doctor, then a CT scan with two or three folks handling that. A radiologist had to look at the various images along with the doc.

Yep, it’s broken. A “comminuted” fracture – that means the left humerus (shoulder) bone was broken into at least two – it was actually three – pieces.

Another consult with the doc and a nurse.

How many folks is that, so far? Don’t really know.

Then, at some point during all that time I had to call to where I had taken my grandson Hayden for an appointment to let them know I wasn’t going to be able to pick him up.

As related in that earlier story, my daughter-in-law had to come from Pawleys Island to get Hayden and me. Another whole bunch of folks at Pawleys Island Christian Academy told her “just go,” saying they had the school covered. Niki is director of the school. She also left her son Henley at school and a friend/parent took him home.

The doc at East Cooper said I would need surgery and made arrangements for me to see an orthopedist in a nearby building.

Again, more folks in that office to see me and Niki. Nurse, clerical-administrative staff, and the orthopedist. He said yes, I should have surgery, but it would be OK to wait to have it done in Georgetown County.

At Tidelands Health Orthopedics the following Monday I saw a surgeon, probably a couple of front office folks, several nurses. review of the X-rays and CT scan, and then new and more involved – and painful !! – X-rays. That was with two more folks. Another consult with the surgeon and PA.

Are you keeping up with the numbers? Me neither.

The next day, in Waccamaw Community Hospital for surgery. Same surgeon and PA, probably at least one other surgeon in the ER and I would guess at least two or three nurses. Then there was the anesthesiologist and assistant.

Recovery room, more nurses. Overnight stay, more nurses, staff.

Dietary for meals. Housekeeping for the whole place. Custodial staff. Pharmacy staff for surgery and meds afterwards.

Discharge home

Since my wife died in 2015, I live alone.

Throughout my time before and after surgery, my son and daughter-in-law and my sister have taken me to stores and doctor’s appointments.

For almost two months, I had Amedisys home health folks. There were two nurses, two occupational therapists and two physical therapists and a home health aide who came to see me. Plus, they of course have clerical help in their office.

Working together, these kind and professional people helped me through the initial time after my surgery until the surgeon released me from the sling and gave me an OK to drive again.

Hmmm!

I started driving when I was 14 years old, so that’s been close to 60 years I’ve been on the road – but I was still a bit nervous to get behind the wheel after two months as a passenger.

Driving has worked out OK, but I have to adjust because my left arm isn’t like it was before the break.

Rehab

Physical therapy isn’t particularly fun – but the folks at NextStep- Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services – manage to make me and their other patients / clients laugh out loud.

When we laugh, our bodies release endorphins. These are chemicals that our bodies produce that make us feel good and reduce pain.

Each time I go to PT I see a receptionist, at least one physical therapist and an aide who gets me started on stretching or using an arm or upper body cycle. Generally, for my hour or so at therapy there are about 8 to 10 patients and about as many therapists.

My guess is that most of us go to therapy twice a week. With likely one patient per hour per staff member, that’s a whole bunch of folks they’re helping get better. Some are like me and are working to build up strength, movement and endurance after surgery. Some people come in before surgery. Or they may be getting ready for surgery by having therapy.

Then there are other folks who have an injury or a chronic condition or … some other reason why they need a physical or occupational therapist.

Here, too, there are folks who handle clerical or administrative stuff, housekeepers and custodians and maintenance personnel. The laundry staff has a lot to keep up with too, of course, since there are towels and pillow cases and other things that need to be cleaned.

Working through the pandemic

Did you keep up with the math? Neither did I, but there’s certainly a lot of folks helping me and a whole slew of other people.

And every one of them puts her or his life on the line, every hour, every patient, every day.

They wear their masks, wash and sanitize their hands, wipe down equipment between uses, and do their jobs in an excellent manner.

And just think – we all have so many people doing the same thing in grocery stores, shops, restaurants, business and government offices. There’s police and fire and EMTs who do it too, all day, every day.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart

Do I like to wear a mask? Nah.

Do I want to keep 6 feet apart from others? Nope.

Wash hands a gazillion times a day? No siree!

But I do all of those things, and so do these good folks.

We continue to hear that in Georgetown and Horry counties, we’re having more cases of coronavirus. Some people are beginning to get vaccines and more doses are coming, but we’re not there yet.

When I get home after physical therapy or covering a meeting or a story for the paper, I get to take off my mask and relax.

The medical folks and therapists and first responders and store and restaurant personnel don’t get to do that.

These good folks are doing their jobs, yes, and they’re being paid for it. But, while facing the possibility of getting sick from a scary virus, they keep on.

My arm hurts from writing up this story, and I’m a long way off from regaining range of motion in my left arm. Still, I know that the therapists and all the other folks will keep on keeping on. My arm will get better.

When you see someone who maybe is just doing his or her job - but keeps on doing it despite the pandemic and its uncertainties – a “Thank you” and an extra dose of kindness and appreciation is in order.

Thank you.

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Reach Nick Masuda at 843-607-0912. Follow him on Twitter at @nickmasudaphoto. 

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