Sunday, June 17, 2012

Aquatic Sessions at the Hospital

Misericordia Hospital c 1910, Winnipeg Manitoba
Yesterday was my last water therapy session for the season.

I started going to water therapy about a year after I got sick. I kept being told by my physiotherapist how good the water would be for me but it took a long time before I was physically stable enough to cope in the water. The hospital I go to for outpatient therapy has a very old pool in its lowest level. It is a touch claustrophobic but oh so lovely and warm! The hospital is very old, completed in 1900, and the pool was originally set up as a recreation and fitness space for the nuns and the nurses that were trained there and lived in the attached residency.

The first time I got in the water I could not believe how dizzy and sick I felt from the movement of the water.  The visual aspects of the moving water and the feeling of the water moving against my skin along with the shear resistance when moving through the water make the pool very difficult, but the fact is that you are supported by the water and if you do loose your balance you are not going to fall down and break something. My first sessions were short and I needed a family member with me because after the pool session I was unable to get myself to the change room, never mind able to get changed once I got there. The car rides home were horrible and I needed to spend the rest of the day in bed.  Weekly I got in that pool with my Physiotherapist Vicky, the pools aquatic teacher Di, her volunteer assistant Vickie and about 5 other people who had serious movement issues. In retrospect I made really good progress and I am convinced that the challenges of moving in the water, while feeling safe and supported made all the difference in my recovery.

The next year my physiotherapist Vicky got a new job and I found myself with a new physiotherapist who did not do aquatic rehab programs so I was switched to trying new challenges on dry land. I am not sure if the water program was suspended for that whole year, but I know that for at least part of the year the pool and change area was closed down for some much needed upgrading. 

Once I was discharged from Physiotherapy, I got a hold of Di and asked her what my options were for water programs around the city. Di teaches several fitness programs around the city and has several group classes where she does the programming out of the Misericordia Hospital. I started attending one of her adapted aquatic fitness groups and it has been fun and beneficial. There is no missing the continuing improvement in my mobility and I give the water therapy and fitness programs a lot of the credit.

I have been going on Thursday mornings with a group of people with assorted health issues, such as arthritis, stroke, and muscle problems that make participating in normal aquatic fitness programs impossible. Di manages to inspire, bribe and motivate us and, yes- Di is not beyond bullying us for our own good. She is a great coach who is very knowledgeable and can customize the exercises and is acutely aware of the needs of each of her participants. Vickie, the long time pool volunteer, helps keep things organized and flowing smoothly. She adds to the safety of the pool experience and her smiling face and gentle style is very much appreciated by Di as well as all the participants. People who participate in the Misericordia aquatic programs find improvement in their pain levels as well as improved movement and do all that while having fun and making friends in a supportive atmosphere.

Next September I will be back in that hospital pool doing my exercises, but for this summer I think I better find a different pool and start work on my endurance and swimming skills.

The picture above is archival but I found it at West End Dumplings
I would have loved to have shared a picture of this neat vintage style pool space, but the paper work to get permission to photograph it was just not worth the effort.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rainy Day and Dolphin Tale

It is a rainy, miserable day in Winnipeg and one of the first days in weeks that I do not have to be somewhere.

I read a facebook post from my new friend Rhiann who blogs at My Brain Lesion and Me
She noted that she was going to take it easy and watch a couple of videos, and one of the ones she listed was Dolphin Tale. I had also bought that movie but I did not watch it at the time because of problems with my DVD drive. I thought Rhiann's plan sounded great, certainly better than doing laundry, which was my first idea. I curled up in a blanket this morning and popped in the DVD.

I enjoyed Dolphin Tale. It made me cry a little.  I am totally entranced with marine life since my up close and personal encounter with a sea turtle last November so it was kind of a given that I would like it.  It is the fictionalized story about Winter, a real baby Bottleneck Dolphin that became entangled in a crab trap. Her tail was damaged and needed amputation but complications set in and the dolphin would not have survived without a prosthetic tail. The technical developments made to accommodate the dolphin have since proven to be of benefit for human amputees as well.

The story involves a young boy who bonds with the dolphin, and becomes changed by his experiences while trying to save her and advocate for her. There is a second and powerful theme of the orphaned dolphin becoming part of her Forever Family at the Clear Water Marine Aquarium. The last part of the movie shows real footage of the dolphin interacting with injured veterans and disabled kids. Yup I cried again.

The fantastic group of actors staring in the film includes, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Morgan Freeman and featuring the dolphin Winter as herself. The movie may not be absolutely amazing, but it is very kid friendly and I found the rescue of this lovely animal to be fascinating. The movie a little slow moving but what the heck... that is how recovery and rehabilitation is in real life for dolphins or people.

The aquarium website has lots of educational material, games for kids, and even a webcam where you can watch Winter and her friends, (and they naturally sell a lot of products too). The web site for the aquarium not only is supportive of wildlife protection and rehabilitation; it supports great visits, camps and other functions. One of the big surprises is that they created a partnership with other organizations to form a campaign to encourage the placement of special needs foster children.  Bravo to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium! Here is an excerpt from that page.
Dreams can come true. Winter lost her family when she was entangled in a crab trap at only three months old. She was brought to CMA in the Winter of 2005 where she found her very own "forever family" of loving people and resident animals. Her new family worked tirelessly to help her overcome her physical challenges. Winter's new mom, Panama is also challenged in her own way; she is deaf.

Many kids in Florida's foster care system face similar challenges; they have special needs and have been separated from their birth families, live in foster care and now need adoptive homes. Winter was a "special needs" adoption and gives hope to all kids waiting to be adopted. This campaign is about raising awareness of the need for Winter to be adopted and for children in foster care to be adopted. It's a great opportunity to connect the two needs through a campaign called "Winter's Dream."
For more information please visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's website.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Quest for the Right Vocation

I have not written about my vocational rehab efforts for a while now. Things have been proceeding very slowly since I entered the program last September and I am not feeling much closer to having a job. A positive is that over the past year I would say I have continued to have improvement, both physically and cognitively, and  I think my job options should actually be improving.

scribbly cartoon of a resume
I had a bit of a "hissy" fit two months ago when we were working on my resume. I did not like the direction things seemed to be going. I somewhat tearfully told my job coach that I thought we were going the direction of a slippery slope taking me somewhere I would be miserable. That was followed by a couple of phone calls and a meeting with me, my vocational counselor and the job coach to review our objectives and make sure we were all on the same track.

The results were that we stepped backward and added in the step of visiting a few people to interview them and ask what they do at their jobs.  We asked, "What are entry level jobs in the field?" and for other bits of information.  The thought was that my understanding of these jobs may not be well informed. When I heard from the people working at those occupations I might understand why some jobs that I thought I might like were not really what I expected and why other jobs that were not appealing to me from the outside were really a good job fit once I understood the details of the job.

"Coach" set up three appointments and also set up a long appointment where we looked at information about the organizations and developed up a list of questions. Coach and I then went on several field trips and met some really interesting people.

The first interview was with a lovely young woman who works very hard doing two jobs from two different funding sources. Basically she works as a coordinator of programs for young special needs clients at a large private recreation facility and she also is involved in a program from that facility designed to work on independent living skills and job readiness for special needs young adults. Her job was too intense and physically demanding for me to ever do. We talked about how a program for older adults might be more to my speed.

 Next we visited with someone who is the volunteer coordinator at SMD, the center my job program is hosted out of. It is a massive local based organization that tries to meet the needs of the disabled community of Manitoba. The lady we interviewed is a very experienced woman with a background in human resources. Basically the lesson learned there was that there are very few organizations that can actually afford to hire someone as a volunteer coordinator. The need for that role still exists in smaller organizations, but the executive director or the board members normally take it on. She got met to tell what I loved in my old job and I talked about being an instructor and setting up programs and she asked why I was looking at being a volunteer coordinator with it's heavy administrative component when I loved the teaching aspects?

Yesterday we had another long visit, again within SMD, but this time with two individuals, the COO of the Fund-raising Department and also the person in charge of Marketing and Lotteries. It was really very interesting to hear about how a large department does things, but nothing was a huge surprise to me. I loved the lady we were talking to. She talked about what a team approach they have there and I would be happy to be on her team anytime and would consider volunteering with them. In terms of pursuing a career in fund-raising I am still not sure that is the best idea. I have done a LOT of fund-raising over the years and know that it wears away at me. There are many aspects that I like very much, but others that I absolutely despise. During our conversation the lady suggested that I might enjoy the diversity of a smaller organization where things are not so compartmentalized. I think she might be on to something.

I am feeling very discouraged right now. I have actually seen a few job postings that were of interest to me but they have all been full time and the reality is that I am only able to handle part time positions. I did learn that I enjoy interviewing people and I am pretty good at it. Not that it is a huge surprise, but it is one more thing I can add to my set of job skills.

Deciding what you want to be when you grow up is hard no matter what age you really are. Figuring out how to actually get that job does not seem very simple either - especially if you are 50, weak on one side and also have balance issues.


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