Book Review – “Left Neglected” by Lisa Genova

So of course I’m going to be partial to a book that not only has an occupational therapist as a prominent character but also know that an OT is not someone who finds people jobs. I started reading Left Neglected last night and finished it before dinner today. I’m pretty bummed that I finished it so fast and I can’t wait to read Genova’s other book “Still Alice.”

In summary “Left Neglected” is about a career woman and mom whose life is a constant juggling act. Sarah has carved out for her and her family what seems to be society’s definition of success. All that changes after a traumatic brain injury. Lisa Genova not only captured what it’s like to adjust to life after a brain injury but she also does an amazing job following Sarah as her emotional perspective changes.

Honestly I think this book should be mandatory reading for any health professional in the rehabilitation field. It is an amazing story of learning to live life with purpose – even after your abilities change drastically. I am so proud to be able to do the job that I do and I’m so grateful that I can do it part-time and I savor every moment with my children and family.

This week I was finally let out into the home health world. Even though my job now involves at times wiping bottoms and dealing with people who are frustrated and angry that life turned a direction they didn’t want to go – I love it! I am honored to be able to help families and patients navigate through the storm, even if it’s just helping in the smallest way.

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Lion Dance

This video is a little long but it’s worth it! So amazing! It makes me want a cute pink Chinese lion for a pet.

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January 20, 2012 · 6:57 pm

The Year of the Dragon

One of the things I love about my husband being Vietnamese is – well of course all the great food, his incredible family – and adding another holiday celebration to the winter. Tet or the Vietnamese/Lunar New Year is celebrated on January 23rd this year and it’s the Year of the Dragon. Of course celebrating another culture’s holiday can be a little tricky.

Before kids we just celebrated by calling Ba and Me (Mom and Dad) and wishing them a year of fortune, health, joy, prosperity, and all the other wonderful things we could think of. Phu and I individually spoke to Ba and then Me. Sometimes we would get some type of special food that Phu remembered eating on Tet.

Now that we have children I want the traditions to run deeper. Of course the biggest memory my husband has is getting the beautiful red envelopes from relatives on Tet – they were filled with cash! That part of the holiday is easy to carry on but I wasn’t sure how else we could celebrate.

One tradition is to clean the house before Tet (Yeah that will probably not happen). But another is much more fun – getting new clothes. Every New Year I buy each of the kids a new outfit – for Kendra something red and for Andrew something blue. Then they pose for a picture that we send to their Ba Noi and Ong Noi (Grandma and Grandpa).

This year I’m hoping we can make some cute DIY dragons to hang up. I’ve also bought gold coins and put them in the red envelopes for classmates. Of course we still call Ba and Me to wish them “Chuc Mung Nam Moi!” And hopefully I’ll take lots of pictures and get them posted!

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My Rock

Well besides both my husband and I switching jobs during the holidays there is a lot going on. I can’t really get into the details but I have a feeling that 2012 is going to be a year to prepare for major changes. Some of these potential changes will be pretty difficult and I have been feeling a little blue. But during worship today I felt like God put this on my heart and wanted to share it here. So here it goes. . .

How much is my faith placed in circumstances, my job, my family, and my friends? Is it bad to have all these things in my life to lean on – absolutely not! But if they are all suddenly gone (I know that sounds morbid) then do I crumble? Do I become utterly lost?

No – because my faith needs to be in Jesus Christ first and foremost. He has promised that He will never leave or forsake me. He will be there with me in any and every circumstance. So no matter what the future holds I do not need to be fearful because the God of all creation cares enough to walk me through it.

And as usual – because God is awesome like this – our pastor’s sermon was pretty much about the same thing (and no that is not a coincidence). I Peter 5:6-11.

So thank you Lord for all the blessings you have brought into my life: all the friends, family, my job and even my trials (because I have learned so much through them). But Lord let my praise be to You not because of just those blessings but because You died in my place and You give me the gift of redemption and grace.

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Sweet Weapons

So this has nothing to do with anything but it did make me laugh out loud so I wanted to share it. Good clean fun – well not so much clean but definately appropriate for children.

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Home is Where the Heart Is

When I first decided to switch career directions I was terrified. My identity has been more about being a hand therapist than an occupational therapist. I have worked very hard to get where I am. I have put up with crazy schedules, demanding surgeons, patients in pain or just scared. I have seen patients who had fingers or thumbs amputated, had their arm snapped in two, and who were in horrible accidents. I can take out stitches, clean a wound, make a splint, and deal with whatever surprise walks into my office. But I chose to walk away from that for a new adventure.

So in the world of therapy there is this unspoken hierarchy. I guess some would say that outpatient orthopedics is near the top of that tier and they are the ones shaking their heads at my choice. Outpatient is usually clean, your patients arrive dressed, they (usually) can carry on a conversation, they usually excuse themselves to the restroom and do not require any help.

On the flip side is the hospital and SNF (skilled nursing facility) where patients can be in gowns, they usually always need help with toileting. They can be confused and sometimes combative. They don’t always smell so great. You may get barfed on or worse. A lot of therapists start out in these settings and then move on. But I have a lot of respect for those who stay in the trenches.

And I will say it now – there really is no hierarchy. It’s a bunch of baloney.

You may have to know more specific information and have more experience to fix a patient’s flexor tendon but it takes a lot of heart to sit with someone’s 89 year old grandmother and teach her how to put on her underwear after a hip fracture. Not everyone is cut out for the type of work it takes to do the not so pretty parts of OT and PT. But when done right – that part of rehab can be the most rewarding.

So where does home health fit into all of this? Well I am finding out. I will not just be an OT but a guest in someone’s home. I went on a visit with one of the PT’s and I listened as a daughter fretted about why her mother with Alzheimer’s isn’t feeding herself anymore. She made sure her mom ate every bite of her lunch while she answered the PT’s questions and reviewed the medication list. At one point she looked at us both and said “I sure hope someone takes care of me when it’s my turn.”

That’s what I want right now – I want to help all the husbands and wives, daughters, sons, nieces, and families who are trying to keep their loved one out of the hospital. I want to sit on their couch and listen to their story. I want to help each patient be able to take care of themselves as independently and safely as possible. I am not afraid to get dirty and I’m sure I’ve made the right decision.

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By Hand

So how can I be “Jennybyhand” if I’m no longer a hand therapist? Well the simple reason is that the title was not based totally on my profession. “By hand” is a term that brings up all sorts of images and meanings to me. First of all if something is done by hand then I assume that it is a one-of-a-kind, it is not mass-produced. I have been made by hand – by the hand of God – and we are all unique. That’s the other thing about doing something by hand – it tends to be imperfect in some way. But imperfections are not a bad thing. A misprint on a minted coin can make it worth far more than it would have been if it were perfect. I love seeing the variations in a hand-stitched blanket or the slightly askew brush strokes on a hand painted plate. I love when you can see the artist’s hand in the object that has been created. I sure hope that you can see the brush strokes of my Creator but I am a work in progress.

The other part of my blog’s title is a reference to my love of crafts. I’m not very good at them – crocheted blankets are shaped like trapezoid and I have a ton of unfinished projects. There is something so satisfying about creating something with your own hands. Whether it is re-building a car engine, decorating a room, or making a bracelet there is nothing like doing the job yourself.

So Jennybyhand will stay and my posts will probably become even more varied. I don’t know that I will stick to any single theme but that’s ok. That’s kind of how my life is anyway. I’m sure it’s just my mom reading this anyway – and that’s ok too. I learned a long time ago that you will enjoy life a lot more if you don’t take yourself too seriously.

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