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Haunting DaisyActual Experiences of a Physical Therapist
By Michelle Distler Tovar
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Michelle Distler Tovar
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Thank you so much, Mrs. Smith. You won't regret it." Daisy put her hand out to shake that of her supervisor's. It had been nearly four years since the horrible night, but also four years forgotten. The only thing that might briefly remind her of the dreaded incident from time to time is the fact that the place where the body sank deep into the river can be seen from her car on her way to town, and is only about eight miles from her house.
"Daisy, how many times do I have to tell you? Mrs. Smith is my mother-in-law's name. My name is Alana." She took Daisy's hand with both of hers and shook it. She was a very strong woman who, obviously worked out at the gym and stayed fit throughout her life. She was not thin, but rather toned and sturdy. This made her all the more respected by her employees.
"I know. It's just that I have worked here for almost six months and probably seen you five times. I just don't want to be disrespectful." "We are both therapists. I may be the one who pays you, but we are all family here. Think of me more as your non-biological half-mother twice removed, and those other four goof-balls out there as more of your sisters than co-workers."
Daisy glanced out the window into the therapy gym to find Jillian and Kristen clapping and laughing at the other two. Robin had hooked Lauren up to an electrical stimulation device that creates muscle contractions. The way she had placed them on her legs, though, initiated a walking pattern that resembled a hen trying to lay an egg while attempting to make its way to the feed on the other side of the pen.
This made Daisy smile so big that it showed all of her teeth. Before she could laugh, though, her attention was quickly diverted away from the comedy show to regard her supervisor.
"I'm truly impressed by the work that you do and the reaction that our patients have to you. I even have them asking for you by name. That's something to be proud of. You deserve every penny of this raise." Alana become aware of the clock beside her and continued, "Oh, wow, I didn't notice the time. We need to get our patients down here before they think we forgot about them. Go tell the others, please."
Daisy thanked her once again and went to the gym where her four coworkers were already putting up their toys and leaving to go and gather their groups of patients. "Time to be professional," Daisy said as she smiled, and received four smiles back.
"How'd it go with Alana?" Robin asked as they began to walk down the Lavender hallway. "Did she give you a good evaluation?"
"It went pretty well." Daisy answered as she continued smiling. "I think she still likes me."
"Well, of course she does. If we all like you, she has no reason not to." Robin turned the corner to gather her group of patients as Daisy continued straight ahead. The therapy room exited to a nurses' station at which point five hallways branched, each belonging to a different physical therapist's patient load and a different nursing staff. Each hall was also identified by the color of the walls. Daisy had the yellow hall, Robin had the light blue, Kristen had the green, Jillian had the pink, and Lauren had the Dark blue. The therapy gym was lavender and was the only place with a black and white checker-board pattern on the floor. All other floors in the facility looked like an elementary school cafeteria, except the upstairs formal dining room that had white floors to match its white walls and white tables.
Daisy knocked on the door to the last room on the left before entering. She spoke in a quiet, yet enthusiastic tone as she asked, "Ms. Henderson? Are you ready to come work out with me?" She always began her route with the patients who she was most familiar with due to their length of residency.
"I'm ready, I'm ready. I can get there by myself. If you try to push me in that dang chair, I'll run over your toes. I don't even need that thing. I don't know why you guys keep putting it in my room. Chairs are for sitting, not traveling." Ms. Henderson was very assertive and independent, and was also very unwilling to seek help or assistance when she really needed it. She, too, was a physical therapist once and exhibited a stubborn mannerism when it came to any offered help. Her attitude may have been due to this fact or possibly a stereotypical characteristic of the red hair that hung just below her shoulders.
"Ok, Ms. Henderson. I'll see you down there in a little while. I'm going to go gather everyone else up." Daisy left the room and crossed the hallway to the next patient's door, which stood open. She knocked as she entered. "Ms. Burnett? Are you ready to come down to the gym with me? It's time for our exercise." No matter whose room Daisy entered, she always spoke with a tone of enthusiasm and a smile.
"Well, hi, dear," Ms. Burnett said with her usual soft, sweet tone, "did you see my boyfriend last night? He brought me flowers and we danced until nearly midnight. You know I'm dating the president, right? He lives next door."
Daisy unfolded the standard wheelchair as she replied, "Well, that sounds like a wonderful night! You must be tired today from all that dancing."
"Oh, no, dear. I feel so alive and refreshed. He really knows how to step."
"That's great, Ms. Burnett. Maybe we'll be able to do some extra laps around the gym today." Some days this kind woman was married to an incredible doctor, and some days she was dating a celebrity. Daisy never did have the heart to tell Ms. Burnett that she was not dating nor married to anyone anymore, or that the place she thought these men lived was a broom closet. The fantasies made her so happy that Daisy just went along with her stories as though they were true. Ms. Burnett actually had two children, who were married and had children and grandchildren of their own, but she seldom mentioned them or anything else that might be more real than her fantasy lovers. She and both of her children shared a very common feature, the soft voices and the southern drawl that might make someone think of the movie "Gone with the Wind".
As Daisy was transferring Ms. Burnett to her wheelchair, which was not hard because of the adequate strength that remained in her legs, Jillian knocked on the door and asked, "Hey, Daisy, do you have any extra gait belts? Mine have all magically disappeared into Laura's locked desk drawer and she's behind closed doors right now with a patient and the key."
"Yeah, I think so. Come with us to the gym and I'll find you one." On the way down the yellow hallway, Jillian paused her conversation with Daisy to say, "Um, Daisy? I think you might have some company."
Daisy turned her head and saw, out of the corner of her eye, Ms. Gaskins following behind her, so close that she could feel a breath on her back. She leaned over to Jillian and whispered, "I love her, but it really freaks me out when she does this."
Ms. Gaskins was in the late stages of Parkinson's disease, which meant her face was completely expressionless and she was nonverbal most of the time, probably because of her frustration with her cruel infliction. She was always very short, but now her five feet of height did not matter to her as it had, some time ago, become the least of her worries. She normally did laps up and down the yellow hall; sometimes migrating into the light blue hall, following behind anyone who walked passed her. She only spoke when she was asked the same question several times, and usually answered with very short, muffled replies. Her favorite person to tag behind, though, was Daisy. In the earlier stages of her disease, she was Daisy's patient. Some days, they would sit around the gym and talk for hours during treatment, but now she is beyond rehabilitation. Sometimes the nurses called her "Daisy's leach", but Daisy just ignored this knowing how rude it was.
Finally all of the patients were collected and had made their way to the gym. The way the gym was designed, the residents would attend physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy independently of each other. This way, the therapists could stay within insurance company rules. Each physical therapist also had six patients assigned to them at any one time.
Daisy's first two patients were women in their seventies who seemed to be best friends and to have known each other all their lives, although they had never met until they resided at this facility. They were short term residents and were there only for rehabilitation after surgical fixations of hip fractures. Ms. Rose had a right hip fracture which cracked the head of her femur; and Ms. Butler had a left hip fracture which descended into her femoral shaft. Ms. Rose was non-weight bearing status while Ms. Butler was partial weight bearing because of the internal fixations. Ms. Rose had been there for three weeks and Ms. Butler for nearly the same period of time. The reason they found each other so appealing was because they shared a common background, as both of them spoke German. They found this amusing to be able to sit in their own little corner and talk about other people while nobody knew what they were saying. That is, until they realized that Daisy also spoke the language. At times, this created slight tension between them.
Both women were born during World War II. Ms Butler was from Berlin and told stories that make you wonder how she ever survived. Ms. Rose was from the south of Germany near Munich. Had they been in Germany today, each would poke fun at the other for various cultural reasons. But finding themselves together in the southern United States, they were sister Germans.
Daisy approached the two women, waited until they finished their conversation, in English this time, and sat on a rolling stool that she pulled up to the back of her knees. "Alright, ladies," she said, smiling enthusiastically, "are you ready to give me a few ankle pumps? Let's lift those heels up first. Let's start with twenty-six; I'll do them with you while I count." She counted to twenty-six and proceeded to alter her technique, this time raising the toes off the floor. Daisy had what she called a "thing" with even numbers. She was compulsive about them. If there were seventeen French fries on a plate, she would eat sixteen and leave one. If there were fifteen stairs in a set, she would skip one. If twenty-five was the standard number of an exercise, she would have the patient do one extra. When it came time for terminal knee extension exercises, Ms. Rose could not get full extension due to the pain these caused in the surgery site, but Ms. Butler found these easy and ridiculous, as with most of the exercises.
The two ladies began to comment to each other in German about Mr. Paris, who was sitting at the occupational therapy table making lemonade for the lunch that day as part of his exercise. This was an ideal task for him due to his decreased shoulder range of motion after his stroke. Daisy caught a couple of words as they lowered their voices and whispered to each other about how good he must have looked when he was their age. Little did they know, he was ten years younger than them. However, one affect of his stroke was that it paralyzed his face on one side, causing him to look older than he truly was. Despite the depression that his stroke caused, he had a very vibrant personality and several weeks after his debilitating aneurism, he slowly learned to laugh at his mistakes instead of dwell on them. This caused him to laugh quite often. Daisy completed therapy with her patients, which included making sure they could walk the expected thirty feet while obeying their restrictions and precautions. Ms. Butler did just fine with this, but Ms. Rose had a harder time even going from sitting to standing because of the swelling that was still present in her hip. This gave Daisy some concern because of the fact that she was supposed to be discharged in less than two weeks and had not progressed as well as she should have. Upon conclusion of the two women's therapy, Daisy allowed the two patients to dismiss themselves to their rooms, but they often stopped in the public cafeteria outside the nurse's station to carry out their conversation until lunch time.
Daisy's next patient was a man named Mr. Carter. He suffered from a motor vehicle accident four years prior which left him in a coma for several months until nearly his fortieth birthday. His level of cognition had noticeably improved over time as he could now take in the world around him, though he often times did not know what to do with it. His goal in therapy was to physically redevelop himself and increase his strength, posture, and balance. Mr. Carter had become very fond of Daisy and his other therapists due to the fact that he needed repetition and familiarity as a major part of his life. Often when he was left in a room with nobody that he recognized, he would scream until his nurse came and calmed him down. Daisy's treatment with him involved standing him up into weight bearing status in order to increase the blood flow, prevent pressure ulcers, and normalize his bowel and bladder functions. Mr. Carter also suffered from global aphasia, which meant that he was very slow to comprehend information that was told to him and also very slow to verbalize his thoughts. This usually prevented him from attempting to communicate at all. When he could form words, they usually did not make much sense except rarely to those who had been working with him for years; they could sometimes figure out what he was trying to say by the way he shifted in his chair or the tone in his voice.
As Daisy stood him in front of a table so he could put his hands down and balance, she guarded him from behind and initiated weight shifting by rocking him from one foot to the other. He was surprisingly very strong in his legs still and, from his physique, she assumed he may have been an athlete prior to his accident. However, when he was in the hospital nobody came to see or claim him except for the first day when a woman was seen going into his room, then stayed for about two hours and left. His nurse had spoken to her briefly, just long enough to be told that she was his sister. Therefore, his history is nearly blank on his chart.
As Daisy progressed his exercises into standing straight and reaching for objects on the table in front of him, she heard a loud commotion behind her from the rest of the patients in the room. A loud, deep male voice shouted above the rest of the noise, saying, "Look who's up and ready to play!" As she turned to see what was going on, Mr. Carter followed her motion to see for himself what was happening. This was very rare for him as he usually did not acknowledge noises or motions around him. She noticed that Mr. Harris, a patient who had Alzheimer's and constantly thought he was on the way to his beach house in Florida, was walking into the gym with his arms out to the side, his disposable underwear in his right hand, and his robe open wide to expose his newly found erection. His wife had come to visit him earlier in the day and apparently gave him some Viagra to prepare him for later when she would bring him their anniversary dinner. She was also suffering from slight dementia and did not think many things through. In fact, the only reason she had admitted him to the nursing home in the first place was because she had found him one morning at about two o'clock mowing his lawn on his riding mower in his underwear. They would not have admitted him for this, except for the fact that this particular morning, he was mowing over snow in sixteen degree weather.
"Mr. Harris, if you don't cover up and get back to your room ..." Alana yelled from her office as she hurriedly walked toward him. She and Lauren covered him and walked him out of the gym.
Kristen and her patient, Mr. Hellums, were sitting beside Daisy at the time working on modalities for his total knee replacement. He looked up at Daisy, then down at Kristen, and then up at the door where Mr. Harris had just been escorted out and said matter-of-factly, "That boy just ain't right."
Daisy and Tina chuckled slightly, but what really made her light up was when Mr. Carter looked over, pointed at Mr. Hellums and nodded his head as though he understood and agreed with what he had just said, and then gave a very hollow and exaggerated laugh. Daisy saw this as such an improvement, almost a miracle.
After assisting her patients back to their rooms, except, of course, Ms. Henderson, Daisy was walking back to the gym when Lauren called her over for some assistance with her new patient. She followed Lauren down her Dark Blue hall. This color was not the darkness found on a can of tuna, but more of a soothing teal. She found her friend trying to pull her patient up to the head of the bed with his draw-sheet, but he was practically dead weight.
Excerpted from Haunting Daisy by Michelle Distler Tovar Copyright © 2011 by Michelle Distler Tovar. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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