The long road to re­cov­ery

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By JACKIE NG

RE­HA­BIL­I­TA­TION may be a long and ar­du­ous jour­ney but it is greatly ben­e­fi­cial to a newly- dis­abled per­son. Re­gard­less of the cause of dis­abil­ity – it could be a spinal cord in­jury, a se­ri­ous car ac­ci­dent, a freak ac­ci­dent, a brain tu­mour, brain aneurysm or a stroke – the con­se­quences are of­ten far- reach­ing.

A newly dis­abled per­son may sud­denly find that he has lost con­trol over his limbs, suf­fer blad­der and bowel dys­func­tion or speech im­pair­ment and cog­ni­tive prob­lems. Most are un­pre­pared for this sud­den change. Fear, frus­tra­tion and de­spair can set in eas­ily.

Be­sides the phys­io­ther­a­pist, oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist, and speech ther­a­pist, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion also in­volves fam­ily mem­bers and friends. They all play a part in my well- be­ing. Emo­tional sup­port goes a long way in help­ing a pa­tient to stay pos­i­tive de­spite the set­back.

In ev­ery case, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion helps to em­power a per­son with dis­abil­ity and his fam­ily. It helps sur­vivors to be­come as in­de­pen­dent as pos­si­ble and to at­tain the best pos­si­ble qual­ity of life. Even though re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion does not cure or re­verse any brain dam­age sus­tained prior to the dis­abil­ity, it can sub­stan­tially help sur­vivors to achieve the best pos­si­ble long- term out­come. More no­tably, it helps us to main­tain our strength, avert mus­cle wastage, and work to­wards the qual­ity of life we wish for.

The most im­por­tant thing I learned from re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion was adapt­ing to new ways of con­duct­ing daily ac­tiv­i­ties – from get­ting out of bed to work­ing on the but­tons, wear­ing trousers, stand­ing, sit­ting, work­ing around mi­nor ob­sta­cles, and us­ing a wheel­chair and crutches.

I was di­ag­nosed with a menin­gioma brain tu­mour in 1998. A cran­iotomy was per­formed to re­move the tu­mour. How­ever, sub­se­quent com­pli­ca­tions in­volv­ing a re­lapse and stereo­tac­tic ra­dio surgery and epilepsy, left me paral­ysed in 2001. Over­whelmed by grief and hav­ing to cope with limbs that didn’t seem to be­long to me, I didn’t step out of the house for an­other five years.

Fi­nally, in 2006, I reg­is­tered as a per­son with dis­abil­ity and at­tended my first phys­io­ther­apy ses­sion.

Ten years on, I am still work­ing with a phys­io­ther­a­pist, hop­ing to gain more in­de­pen­dence. In my case, the road to re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is not a straight­for­ward one.

Due to lack of in­for­ma­tion and knowl­edge about re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion at that time, I started my phys­io­ther­apy ses­sions in the hos­pi­tal’s gen­eral phys­io­ther­apy depart­ment be­fore at­tend­ing hy­drother­apy ses­sions.

At that time, I al­ter­nated between phys­io­ther­apy and hy­drother­apy. This went on for six years be­fore a phys­io­ther­a­pist in the hy­drother­apy depart­ment re­ferred me to the neuro- re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion depart­ment, and I started my neuro- re­hab pro­gramme.

As I gained more con­trol over my sit­u­a­tion, it boosted my con­fi­dence and strength­ened my re­solve to con­tinue with re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

When my new phys­io­ther­a­pist ad­vised me not to ex­pect too much be­cause of cer­tain mus­cle weak­ness due to the long lapse be­fore neuro- re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, I could only smile in re­sponse.

There is no point dwelling on lost time; no harm try­ing after all.

The les­son I learnt is this: Get­ting into a cor­rect re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gramme is as im­por­tant as get­ting an ac­cu­rate di­ag­no­sis for an ail­ment.

Be­yond Bar­ri­ers is a plat­form for shar­ing and rais­ing aware­ness on dis­abil­ity is­sues and any chronic med­i­cal con­di­tion. We wel­come con­tri­bu­tions from read­ers who have a dis­abil­ity or any spe­cial needs, care­givers, ad­vo­cates of dis­abil­ity groups, or any­one liv­ing with any chronic med­i­cal con­di­tion. E- mail your sto­ries to star2@ thes­tar. com. my. Con­tri­bu­tions which are pub­lished will be paid, so please in­clude your full name, IC num­ber, ad­dress and con­tact num­ber.

‘ Emo­tional sup­port helps a pa­tient to stay pos­i­tive,’ says Jackie Ng. — Filepic

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