Pamela V. Brown

Write Path, an L.L.C.  

Photo by Ron Kosen / Photo-Spectrum

   

   Kauai Business Report July 2004

 

   

Occupational Therapy

Helping KVMH Patients Reclaim Independence

   

By Pamela V. Brown

   

 
 

WAIMEA - It takes an energetic person to be a one-man department so it's a good thing that Steve Kline, occupational therapist at Kauai Veteran's Memorial Hospital, has energy and enthusiasm in abundance.

   

Helping people re-learn how to dress themselves, feed themselves or just get around their home after suffering a stroke, head injury or other cognitive impairment, requires Kline to be part occupational therapist, part psychologist and part cheerleader. Clients also include those weakened by chronic cancer, caretakers of elderly people and people who may have had some sort of orthopedic surgery.

   

"You've gotta have a lot of patience," Kline said. "Sometimes the patients can have psychosis or be combative" out of frustration at no longer being able to make their bodies do basic functions, he said.

   

But the rewards are worth it.

Steve Kline, occupational therapist at Kauai Veteran's Memorial Hospital

Photo by Pamela V. Brown

 
 

   

"It's very holistic. We look at the whole person, which is nice," Kline said. "Even one little thing to help them be able to do something they used to be able to do, really helps them."

   

Employing an arsenal of inventive devices to help patients train their bodies and minds in alternate ways of performing activities of daily living, Kline teaches people how to compensate for their new, reduced physical mobility and agility.

The goal in most cases is to help patients go from being very dependent upon a caretaker, to only needing "stand-by" assistance, in effect, reclaiming much of their independence.

   

Kline has drawers full of fascinating gadgets that he delights in demonstrating, reminding a healthy person how easy it is to take normal bodily functions for granted.

   

A simple but effective item is a dressing stick, which helps pull socks on or off. There's a leg-lifter - basically a stick with a device at the end to either grab a pant leg or the patient's heel in order to reposition a leg. There's also a whole set of "pivot utensils," weighted utensils that help prevent food spillage while eating, if a patient's hands shake uncontrollably.

   

Another device helps thread a button-down shirt over one arm, around the patient's back, then over the other arm - a range of motions that looks deceptively simple. "It can take weeks or months to learn that one depending upon the cognitive impairment," Kline said.

   

For a patient who has become paralyzed on one side of the body, everything they used to know how to do is now a series of big challenges.

   

"We give instructions to people about how to eat and swallow if one side of their face or throat is paralyzed," Kline said. "We do tongue work on their face and neck muscles to strengthen them."

   

 
 

Kline, who has been an occupational therapist for 14 years and who has been at KVMH for four years, loves to show off his brand new fluidotherapy machine - the first one in Hawaii - for which he raised funds through a golf tournament. "I knew nothing about golf but I learned," he said. He learned well, raising almost the entire $6,000 cost of the machine from the tournament, with the hospital auxiliary kicking in the difference.

   

A fluidotherapy machine is a device filled with corn husks into which puffs of air are blown electronically. A patient can insert both arms or both legs, flexing hands or feet and working tendons to relieve numbness or tingling suffered from crush injuries or nerve damage.

   

Kline said in older fluidotherapy machines, only one arm could go in at a time. In his new machine, there are pockets into which he can insert his arms to gently manipulate a patient's joints while the air, heat and corn husks constantly massaging the limbs.

   

Though he's very busy seeing six to eight patients per day, handling all the billing for his department and keeping track of 12 different insurance companies, Kline enjoys the personal touch he can provide at KVMH.

   

"You get more time with the patients," Kline said. "Patients send nice cards and letters and some come by to show me how well they're doing. It's a different level of care here."

   

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Contact Information:

Pamela V. Brown

(808) 651-3533 cell

(808) 821-1027 fax

pam@writepath.net

   

"Individuality of expression is the beginning and end of all art."             --- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Proverbs in Prose

   

Copyright 2004 Write Path, an L.L.C. and Pamela V. Brown  

All material, pictures, concepts, intellectual property and rights reserved. 

Copyright 2004 Magical Concepts