Family Corner

Doctors and Out-patient Therapy

As inpatient therapy and day program were winding down at Shepherd and plans were being made to return home, we started talking about what medical care Darren would need. Since his injury had happened at age 18, he still had his pediatrician as his primary care physician. After phone calls to the pediatrician’s office and my general physician, a referral was made to a local internist who could be a physician to handle some of the medical issues Darren was sure to face: UTIs, a cold, flu shot, etc. For SCI related issues, we were referred to a physiatrist at Kessler Institute and the staff urologist at Kessler as well. Initial appointments were scheduled with all the doctors, before they were actually needed, so medical files could be opened and the relationship could begin.

At the same time, we had contacted Kessler Institute to schedule outpatient PT and OT. It was now mid-November, close to Thanksgiving and scheduling was tough with all the holidays. I think Darren had both intake appointments for PT and OT before Christmas, but actual therapy sessions did not start until after January 1, 2005. In the meantime we had home visits for both PT and OT, which were helpful in learning what to do and how to do things in our house.

Therapy was scheduled three times a week, one hour each and usually in consecutive time slots, thank goodness. We were borrowing a friend’s van at the time and eventually bought it until we could decide what to do for future accessible transportation.

With so many people offering to help, lining up volunteers to drive Darren back and forth to therapy was a great way to take them up on their offers. It also gave me some time to myself during the day. A weekly schedule was set up and some people signed up once a week, others just one time or when their schedule allowed. This was a wonderful respite for me, and also gave Darren and I some time apart. He needed to interact with others. And I also think it was good (although bittersweet) way for our friends and family to learn more about Darren’s injury. It gave them a little insight into what some of the day to day challenges were that Darren faced.

I remember a conversation that Darren and I had during this time about how it was our “responsibility” now to educate those around us about SCI. How could anyone know or understand what an SCI involved, what it meant, etc? It was up to us to explain.

Outpatient PT and OT continued for about four months. It was important that Darren learn as much as he could; to get stronger and become more independent. Looking back, the small improvements were huge, but happened very slowly. Darren needed help with almost everything and it was me who did most of it for him and/or with him. As progress plateaued and therapy was winding down, Darren was already restless. What was next? There must be something else he could do.

Darren and I started working independently on a variety of ideas. Our local Y (Thank you Lakeland Hills Family YMCA!) donated a family membership so Darren and I could go there and use the pool. We did that a few times a week and he enjoyed being in the water, working up to swimming laps.

Through a few personal connections we found Eric Prol, a Kinnelon resident, KHS graduate and personal trainer. He had never worked with anyone who had an SCI but he was willing to try. Darren and Eric hit it off immediately and developed a special relationship that lasted several years and formed the basis for starting Push to Walk. Eric was a key person in Darren’s recovery combining just the right amounts of challenging him, encouraging him and learning about SCI. Eric brought his education in Exercise Science, his experience in personal training and his compassion all together for Darren’s benefit. It was a match made in heaven and one I still remember fondly.

With workouts in our house and in our pool, Darren was training like an athlete again. He understood the need for repetitions and working hard to achieve results. Friends supplemented and assisted with Eric’s workouts, bringing new ideas to help him get stronger.

Darren’s eventual interest in a massage therapist and finding Project Walk in CA put us on yet another part of our journey – helping us create Push to Walk, which opened its doors in June 2007.