CHI St.Luke's Health helps East Texas woman regain skills with occupational therapy

CHI St.Luke's Health helps East Texas woman regain skills with occupational therapy
(Source: KTRE Staff)
(Source: KTRE Staff)
(Source: KTRE Staff)
(Source: KTRE Staff)
(Source: KTRE Staff)
(Source: KTRE Staff)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An East Texas woman is successfully regaining skills after a stroke left her immobile.

Lufkin's CHI St. Luke's Health Outpatient Therapy Center is home to therapists who spend every day getting people back to doing the things they need to do in life. We've all heard of physical therapy, but the month of April is dedicated to the celebration of Occupational Therapy. Kathy Beard shared her successes after going through therapy.

It's not a playful peg puzzle game for Kathy Beard; it's one of the meticulous exercises helping her gain back every day life skills.

"Sometimes, it may be getting back to where you were before, and other times, it may be learning new ways to do things," said Marita Verhalen, an occupational therapist with CHI St. Luke's Health Outpatient Therapy Center.

Occupational therapy is a therapeutic program offered here in Lufkin aimed at regaining the seemingly small skills that many of us take for granted.

"A parent...that is an occupation. A student, a friend, even being able to take care of yourself," Verhalen said. She explained that the therapy is not only geared to help patients go back to work, but also for activities such as opening a can or putting on clothes while paralyzed on one side.

Kathy found herself at the Outpatient Therapy Center after a mini-stoke left her partially paralyzed.

"That Saturday, when I woke up, I mean I flat out couldn't move period. It scared the dickens out of me," Beard said.

The financial services accountant could no longer carry out essential parts of her job.

"I couldn't type, period. I'm right-handed," Beard said. "I don't want to live like that with no movement on my left side."

Peg by peg and rep after rep, she committed to the occupational therapy that would put her on the path to the independence she was used to.

"I'm really excited that I have movement back, and I'm not going to be dropping and spilling things anymore," Beard said.

Aside from carefully customized activities, the motivation of the therapist Kathy compared to a sister played a huge part in the process.

"She was good about yanking me and pulling me back up and saying 'You can do this!'" Beard said.

"Moments where it's like, 'Oh my gosh, I never thought I'd be able to do that again!' That's the most rewarding part," Verhalen said.

Most of those moments are as simple as Kathy's first finger movement.

"I was ecstatic because I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew I was on my way," Beard said.

Kathy is in her last week of occupational therapy.  She and her therapist have already set up exercises for her to continue when on her own.

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