Rainbows are a symbol of hope. This was photographed by me April 7, 2020.

Our clinic was eerily quiet on St. Patrick’s Day this year.  Many of our patients had cancelled following the social isolation recommendations they were hearing about in the media based on how easily the COVID-19 virus spreads.  The daily news report and update on the number of deaths from China, Italy, and now Spain was alarming.  Horror stories of cruise ships and their passengers being quarantined and not allowed to return to homeports because the infection had spread were increasing.

Guidance from several epidemiologists provided assurance to staff that hand washing and not touching your mouth or face, a now familiar chant among people everywhere, were indeed effective measures.  Gloves and facemasks were not necessary (though that recommendation was altered in the weeks that followed). Disinfecting everything that people touched in the clinic was essential and crucial.

Two-thirds of the patients we see at our clinic are over the age of 65 and identified as the most at-risk to become infected, and so it was not a surprise that most were opting to stay home. This immediate drop in business was likely happening in every clinic that is part of our physical therapy company.  If the situation continued and our client base did not return, it was inevitable that our employees and all of our jobs would be negative impacted.

Meanwhile, naturally, our staff were experiencing all sorts of personal emotions: outrage that we were still working and potentially putting ourselves and our patients at risk of becoming infected; annoyance and aggravation at having to leave kids home unattended to do online home school; complete absorption with every news and social media update and opinion related to the disease; fear about what it meant for jobs since there were too few patients to keep everyone busy; introversion and very quietly trying to work as normal; and of course, outwardly carrying on with patient interaction and treatments in the spirit of business as normal.

As we fast-forward to April and the President and Governor’s orders to stay at home, the number of our employees who have been furloughed is staggering.  These are the same people who make up our work families.  The financial and emotional effect on their lives, as we try to make sense of this crisis and when life will return to a more normal path, is unknown.  

Spring break, Easter, and Passover have come and gone.  Interacting with extended family, friends, and now many of our patients is through a video camera on our computers and phones.  Our clinics are operating with skeleton crews as we navigate this new norm. Communication with the people who make our clinics thrive, the employees, is done mostly by email now as we wait out this life-changing period.  

Stanley McChrystal shared, “What we don’t know, we fill with terrifying thoughts in our mind,” in a recent radio interview.  There is no firm date, yet, when our work lives will return to normal.  But, as Dr. Laurie Santos explains in The Science of Well-Being, “the human brain is wired to be resilient.  Our psychological immune system has the ability, in fact the tendency, to adapt to and cope with negative events.”   

Hang on to hope.  Try to find meaning in your new daily routine. And when this crisis ends, your priorities and the things you want may have changed.  You may be grateful for elements of your life that you once took for granted.

Anyone who knew my mom would describe her as kind and happy.

Science says there are specific behaviors that will make you happier.  

The COVID-19 crisis has completely disrupted all of our lives: patients, employees, family members, businesses, neighbors, and friends.  “I feel anxious,” says the office manager of our physical therapy clinic whose teenagers are teaching themselves through online school. 

Meanwhile, her husband is managing turmoil at work where employees were exposed to a customer known to have tested positively for the virus.  And, she has to report to work while her furloughed colleagues bring in more income on unemployment than she is doing her now part-time job.

So, how do we make sense of the new reality of the social distancing we are experiencing, mandatory 24-7 time with our immediate families and only some of us still going to work? Is there anything we can do to feel happier during this crazy time?

Thankfully, researchers have shown that specific behaviors, including performing acts of kindness, will enhance our sense of well-being.  Behavioral psychologists have been able to measure this using a happiness scale.

If you have been a patient or worked in one of our clinics, you are already familiar with outcomes measures.  These are the questionnaires that ask you to rate your pain, disability, or level of function at that particular moment in time.  They are usually given at the first visit, midway through an episode of care, and at discharge.

The happiness scale does the same thing.  Researchers are able to “ping” patients (send a specific tone to a mobile phone) and ask them 1.) how happy they are on a scale of 1-5 at that moment, and 2.) what they are doing or have recently done at that moment in time.

Acts of kindness have been shown to increase a person’s happiness.  The surprising find reveals that not only do the recipients of the thoughtfulness rate their happiness higher, but the doer of the act benefits as well. 

“People want this world to be a better place, and with the extra time on our frequently washed hands, the act of helping people can boost our own sense of well-being,” was discussed in The Happiness Lab podcast hosted by Dr. Laurie Santos.

One of our patients got out her sewing machine and made cloth facemasks that were mailed to crisis areas when the pandemic first started. That was weeks before they became part of each of our wardrobes in the clinic and in public places. Emily said, “I have a skill, sewing, and there was a need.  My cousin’s husband is a doctor and there was a shortage of masks where he works.”  Emily also shared that she has a friend who grocery shopped for an immune compromised neighbor.  “I thought that was a show of true friendship.”

A contractor placed a large order for oysters to give to other clients from a family he had done work for who have an oyster farm. The oyster business came to a screeching halt after restaurants had to close down.  The owner, Mark, said, “I was blown away by the kindness of this gesture.  He gave the oysters away to friends and family for Easter.”

Paige Drewry, owner of the small specialty grocery store, Kelsick Market, donated a meal to the staff at our local Riverside Walter Reed Hospital prepared by the chef who works in her business kitchen.  She also set up a Go Fund Me site where others can contribute to a meal to “feed those who heal.”

The Gazette-Journal reported that Rebecca Reed found a roll of toilet paper in a bag outside of her house with a note saying, “You got T.P.ed.” Reed remarked, “What a thoughtful, neighborly act of kindness.”  

When Gloria’s marathon was cancelled because of the pandemic, friends mapped out a 26.2-mile course on what would have been “race day.”  They planned water and aid stations and recruited supporters to accompany her and cheer her on as she completed a bucket list goal.  “Yesterday was truly indescribable.  It was like a dream.  The best dream ever.”

Ginny and Bob were all set to adopt a puppy that had been rescued by Lu’s Labs when they got a desperate call needing them to also foster a 6-year old lab who had been severely mistreated and neglected.  The dogs were being transported from Louisiana and the older one had no place to go because of COVID-19 upheaval.  Everyone who has ever had a puppy knows there is nothing easy about that addition to the family, but they didn’t hesitate to bring the older dog into their home, too. 

Marker 9 quickly sold out of specially made t-shirts that say, “Shuck you COVID” with an oyster logo.  They used 100% of the proceeds to support local oyster farmers by purchasing oysters to “help keep their businesses rolling.”  Those oysters were donated to families to “enjoy these pearls of our region.”

Last week, I treated a patient who shared with me that she decided to support a small shop on our local main street by buying a gift certificate for a friend’s birthday instead of giving what she had originally planned. The store is currently closed, but when the owner was contacted, she expressed how grateful she was for the gesture to support her when she re-opens.   The patient talked about how “being an ordinary citizen with a job and the means to support a local business actually makes me feel good.”

So, as we hunker down and continue to embrace the new norm that has become our lives, research shows that doing simple acts of kindness brings us happiness, and there are certainly plenty of opportunities to be kind. 

Liam Elkind, who organized a volunteer group called Invisible Hands to help vulnerable neighbors, reminds us “People want to do good in this world.  People want this world to be a better, happier place.  People are able to come together in a world that feels like it is pulling apart.”

#covidkindness

My walk on the bandit trails in Yorktown covered all of the recommended intentional acts that have been scientifically shown to contribute to happiness as recommended and taught in the free Yale University course The Science of Well-Being which I recently completed.  Well, I mostly finished it, since I didn’t actually do any of the homework but instead have shared much of the information with pretty much anyone who will listen or read what I have to say.  I consider that far more effective than completing the assignments as prescribed.

I headed out on the trail, grateful that my uncle shared his homemade map of the bandit trail system with me.  I savored the chilly morning and the opportunity to hike so close to home with my energetic Labrador Retriever, Gusto, and how excited he, too was to be exploring somewhere new.  The kindness came with getting my loyal companion out somewhere new for an hour and a half of exercise (exceeding the recommended daily dose of 30 minutes) and being thankful for family and a relationship that has had its share of tumultuous moments.

The soul nurturing experience of being out in the woods and not focused on stuff was refreshing.  I thrived on the opportunity for meditation as I concentrated on navigating the trail and some thoughts in my brain that needed attention to provide clarity.  Finally, visualizing sharing the trails with other friends and family reinforced how important it is to maintain and nurture social connections, especially during these socially isolating times.

Team Pop 2017
At mile 4, I started undoing one of the safety pins that held my race number to my “Team Pop” shirt. It was hot. I was tired. I felt done. I would simply pull off my number and sneak away from the race. My car was just across the street from that particular spot on the course. Would it matter if I bailed now? My intent had been sincere. My energy and motivation at that moment were sapped.

But I thought about Pop, who I had met only that morning before the event. Kenny’s dad. Grandpa to Jess and Ken’s 6-month old. Mrs. Morris’s husband. I convinced myself that the overheating misery I was experiencing was nothing compared to the fatigue and illness Pop has been going through as he battles lymphoma. Or the anger and frustration Ken has dealt with watching a parent battle an invisible opponent like blood cancer. And the courage I witness in my own mother as she faces lung cancer head-on.

I re-fastened the safety pin and told myself this was not going to be my induction into the quitting hall of fame just because the run felt hard. Fighting cancer is hard. And so is watching it from outside the ring as a grown child, like Ken & Jess, who only recently became parents themselves.

The conversation that took place in my head included a reprimand to myself with the reminder that this event and this day were not about me. Not in the least. The mental reaming involved a laundry list of thrashings that included the recognition that my ego was getting in the way of why I had come out to be part of Team Pop in the first place.

I thought about standing with my hand over my heart while the national anthem was played before the race and how emotional I felt knowing that Kenny had pulled together a large group of folks who wanted to show their support for him and his dad. I thought about how competitive I am with myself and how at this stage in my life I do not need or even really want the accolades or trophy that come with being first or fastest. That being healthy and strong and able-to are reasons enough to toe the start line and cross through the finish chute. Not an option for Pop right now.

Waiting to cross the finish line with Ken and others from the team he organized made me feel grateful and humble. The smile on Pop’s face, and the appreciation he showed for everyone who had gathered to support and honor him was powerful. The story Ken and Jess saw of their lives only a year ago did not include Pop having to suffer with blood cancer and maybe sooner than later miss out on holding, playing with and passing on wisdom to their child.

Kenny’s effort to do something so tangible to honor his dad, including surrounding him with so many people channeling positive energy in his direction, has to have converted into some sort of healing power, at least for now. I am grateful for the personal awakening that occurred by doing something good for someone else. And I still have not checked the times or results from the race.

I do know that that the lofty goal Ken set of raising $10K for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society was met and will support research and science to help find a cure. That, by far, is the best prize I have ever seen on the podium of any 10-K.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. These are the types of cancer that can affect the bone marrow, blood, lymph nodes or other parts of the lymphatic system. Their mission: cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Funds raised support lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provide free information and support services.

Running for Pop. Fueled by hope and love. Camaraderie. A cause. Distraction from what cannot be controlled. Purple passion. Spirit. Thanks, Kenny. Thank you, Pop.

Sunset Florida 2017“I am what I am because of who we all are.” Ubuntu, a South African philosophy, accepts that we are all part of something larger. It’s time to embrace the challenge of helping individuals, families and caregivers whose lives are impacted by a chronic health condition get access to the resources they need. Now. Yesterday.

Disabling short-and long-term conditions cross all social and economic demographics. Every individual and family deserves support and access to resources that help ease the burden of living with or caring for someone with a disabling medical diagnosis.

We have to step up our efforts to figure out how we can assist people and caregiving families with getting help when they are faced with the challenges created by a loved one’s declining health status.

Many of our communities, including where I live, do not have the resources in place to connect individuals and families to a network of experts and professionals who will help them maintain independence and dignity as they address the medical, economic, social and emotional challenges of managing someone’s health.

Alan Jette, PT, PhD argues that it is crucial that caregivers and caregiving families be given information and support to fulfill their roles and responsibilities while also maintaining their own health, financial security and well-being.

He also highlights that “while we must acknowledge that there is the potential for economic and emotional hardship on family caregivers, there are many positive outcomes, too. These include enhanced confidence on the part of the caregiver, lessons in how to deal with difficult situations, and closer personal relationships with the care recipient.”

Jette enlightened me with the alarming fact that one in 7 Americans has a disability when I read his editorial in the February 2017 Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association. That knowledge, combined with the fact that  20% of the population (72.8 million people) in the U.S. will be 65 years of age or older in 2030, means that the number of people living with a disability will continue to grow.

The scenario that lies ahead is not all bad. If we commit to the challenge, sense of satisfaction and purpose associated with helping individuals and caregivers find solutions to their difficult situations, we all benefit. Interconnectedness. Ubuntu. It’s a good thing.

 

PolioChaplainsDtrJackCastpolio%201957

Plants to End Polio is a web-based initiative to raise awareness about Rotary International’s participation in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the goal to end the spread of this vaccine-preventable virus by 2018.

This is my mother’s story about her memory of a childhood friend who had polio in the 1950s: The Chaplain’s Daughter, by Ann Burruss.

Gardeners and plant lovers can order bulbs from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs  for both Spring (late summer blooms) and Fall planting (think daffodils!).

At no extra cost to the buyer, 25% of the purchase is donated to End Polio Now when Gloucester Point Rotary Charitable Foundation is selected.  That donation is matched 2:1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  An $80 purchase results in a $60 contribution to help eradicate polio.  And to think the purchaser was going to order bulbs anyhow!

Photo by Jack Cast

 

NASA SpaceX Rocket Launch

The strategies for recruiting patients to your clinic are similar to those used by professionals who identify and secure potential donors in fundraising efforts. Brenda Cressey, in an article about capital campaign funding for The Rotarian, mentioned these key points:

Identify potential consumers of your service in your geographic area: who may need physical therapy?

  1. Cultivate a relationship: get in front of potential patients (who also have family, friends and acquaintances) who may need physical therapy. Let them know what is unique and special about your clinic: immediate scheduling of appointments, robust exercise programs, individually tailored treatment plans, and specialty services.
  2. Solicit those prospective patients and referral sources: request that they ask for you or a colleague, specifically, to be their physical therapist. Ask that they recommend you personally. Be bold in reminding consumers that in most cases they do have a choice in who they select as their physical therapy provider.
  3. Remember to thank the patients that chose you to be their provider of physical therapy services. Thank the folks who refer patients to you. Remember that every relationship has played a role in where you are today as a successful clinic manager and physical therapist.

So, like successful fundraising campaigns, physical therapy practice management demands vigilance in recognizing that potential consumers have many choices. And what will set them apart, much like what sets capital donors apart in the organizations to which they donate and support, will likely come down to a relationship that the patient, or potential patient values: you and your skills as a physical therapist and practice manager.

Photo from NASA SpaceX 

 

POLIO IMMUNIZATION IN LUCKNOW

Konnie Huq in Lucknow during the November Immunization days in Northern India..India has been engaged in a campaign to eradicate polio in India which target the high-risk area of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar with polio immunization drives every 2 month (photo Jean-Marc Giboux)

Meet Colleen, polio activist, Rotarian, front-line team member who has traveled to India & Nigeria to vaccinate children to protect them from the devastating polio virus: Colleen Bonadonna.

Plants to End Polio supports Rotary International efforts to eradicate polio.  When you designate Gloucester Point Rotary Charitable Foundation through Bloomin’ Bucks, 25% of your purchase will help End Polio Now.   For every dollar we raise, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation doubles its contribution to the cause.

Plant plants.  End polio.  It’s that simple with this partnership with the internationally acclaimed Brent & Becky’s Bulbs.

PolioBillboard

To learn more about post-polio syndrome, read this blog from a physical therapist.

Plants to End Polio is a Gloucester Point Virginia Rotary Club project to raise awareness and funds to help eradicate polio as it lurks in just two nations: Afghanistan and Pakistan.

We partnered with Brent & Becky’s Bulbs Bloomin’ Bucks program so that when you select Gloucester Point Rotary Charitable Foundation, 25% of your sale is donated to End Polio Now.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match every dollar donated to End Polio Now 2:1.

Check out this post for hints on growing beautiful bulbs indoors any time of the year!

 

polio1950s

Photo from the Roosevelt library collection.

“We must fear a resurgence of this dreaded disease.”~ Peggy Bowditch

Read Peggy’s story here.

Join Gloucester Point Virginia Rotary Club as we raise awareness and funds to help eradicate polio as it lurks in just two nations: Afghanistan and Pakistan.   Plants to End Polio is a project where we partnered with Brent & Becky’s Bulbs Bloomin’ Bucks program so that when you select Gloucester Point Rotary Charitable Foundation, 25% of your sale is donated to End Polio Now.  Unfortunately, the “shop” is closed for the season but will re-open in January.  In the meantime, please help us spread the word.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match every dollar donated to End Polio Now 2:1.

Check out this post for hints on growing beautiful bulbs during the dreary winter months.