Tuesday, June 22, 2010

SI Drama and another Life Lesson

After a really tough weekend, I decided there was no choice: I absolutely could not make it without going to see a PT. I used Google Maps’ search near me feature, and was so pleasantly surprised to learn that there were a good 20ish PTs and/or PT clinics in a half mile radius of my hotel. I looked around at their websites and sorted through the list to prioritize who I wanted to try to see first thing Monday morning.

I called many of the PTs’ offices Sunday afternoon to see when the offices opened. I was able to talk to a clinic that was willing to see me at 9:30, and also willing to offer me a discount if I paid by cash (my insurance is a regional insurance, and would not have a carrier network several states away – not to mention the hassles associated with getting a referral prior to seeing a PT, etc).

As I walked to the PT clinic (0.4 miles from my hotel, according to Google), I could feel myself leaving the swanky tourist area and getting closer to a sketchy neighborhood. I didn’t feel unsafe, but I did feel out of place and as though I were being stared at. When I arrived at the clinic, the building was nice and the inside was clean but I felt further out of place. There were folks outside smoking. There was a man wearing a crocheted doily to cover a huge wound on his neck (maybe one of those throat cancer things). There were several folks with thug-type baggy pants and huge gold chains with their names on them. And then there was me – white with not a single tattoo on my body – in my khaki pants and polo.

I had to sign a form that was literally 1.5 pages long about their narcotics policy – which prescriptions would and wouldn’t be issued, how often the prescriptions would be issued, how the drugs were and weren’t supposed to be taken, etc. There were signs everywhere about how lost prescriptions would not be replaced. As someone recently prescribed Lortab as though they were TicTacs, I found this so ironic. (I hate to take medicines unless there are no other alternatives – I prefer a natural and holistic approach whenever possible.)

I seriously contemplated leaving, as I questioned the type of care I would receive. I decided I would give it a go, though, largely because I was already there and because the other places I had called were unable to see me until much later in the afternoon.

I have to give the therapists and the office staff so much credit. Aside from the front desk people, all of the folks I dealt with – intake, billing, office manager, and PTs – were very very kind, empathetic, professional and, most impressive/important, good at their jobs.

I was seen by two PTs. They both worked with me at the same time. They verified that they thought the issues were SI related, and explained to me that my tight hamstrings were the source of the problem. They explained to me a way to stretch them that was more effective than what I had learned previously. Although I had been told by my previous PTs/PTAs (PTA = physical therapist’s assistant – generally equipped with an associates degree or some amount of lesser training than a “real” PT) to stretch the hamstrings, they either did not identify this as the source of the problem or did not communicate this effectively to me. I was grateful to be equipped with this new knowledge.

At the mostly-white people, non-indigent patient population clinic that I go to in Fayetteville, they are also reasonably professional. However, I almost always worked with a PTA who was helping two (sometimes even three) patients simultaneously. I have never received the amount of individualized, personal attention I received at the clinic I visited in Louisville. I recommend this clinic whole-heartedly. I definitely felt validated that my pain was legitimate, and treated like a person, not just one of a few patients that a PTA was dividing his/her time between. Also, I appreciated working with PTs rather than PTAs – and two of them, focused solely on helping me out!

The PT was able to align me reasonably quickly. His approach was more like a chiropractor, cracking me into place rather than the more gentle apply resistance approaches my previous PT/PTAs had used on me. He warned me that my SI joint was likely to pull back out of place since my hamstrings were so tight, and he was right: it was out by the evening despite stretching it and laying down most of the day to minimize activity. I have to say, though, the pain has been much less since visiting the clinic than it was before, and I honestly do not think I would have been able to make it through a travel day without loads of Lortab without his help. I have only taken one today, whereas I am certain I would have had to take 4-5 without the help of the PTs.

I feel I am being placed in lots of situations that make me think about who I am, how blessed I am, and how much I complain lately. I want to be positive, and see the good in things/people/situations even when they are not so rosy. I want to learn from life, and contribute positively to it. Realizing how snobby I am – even when I don’t intend to be – makes me realize that I have a ways to go. I am embarrassed that I almost left this wonderfully helpful clinic because I felt I was too good for it. I am grateful to the clinic for not only for fixing up my body and making it possible for me to go home without too much pain, but also for reminding me to be a lot less judgmental of others, and supportive of and grateful for people who work with the less fortunate.

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