Monday, April 8, 2013

Appearances Can Be Deceiving. Or Not.

Think he'd react if I gave him some pit sugar?
Stoic. Unresponsive. Stone faced. That's the way some people appear. But appearances can be deceiving.

Take this fellow with the red plume, for instance. His job is to be stoic ... unresponsive ... stone faced. But he's not as out of it as he appears - he's quite alive. And uber aware.

His mind is fully operational. He's feeling lots of things (like "Crimey! I wish this daft American would get off me blinkin' foot"). He just doesn't show it.

When I read back over my previous post "You, too, can be a showstopper," (two posts ago) about the mostly dead audience who fooled me, it brought back to mind another memorable unresponsive person I dealt with about 30 years ago.

At the time I was the occupational therapist in a skilled nursing facility (read: Nursing Home). I had been out of OT school all of about two years and had accepted the job because I didn't really mind working with the elderly population. My job was to see my patients either in their rooms or down in my therapy hovel for about thirty minutes a day to keep their upper extremities limber and them functioning in order to return home after a stroke or debilitating injury.

One afternoon, I began making my rounds upstairs on the orthopedic floor to treat the patients who hadn't made it downstairs that morning.Things went swimmingly with my first few patients and then I entered Mr. Maloney's room.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Maloney," I chirped in my usual cheerful manner. "I'm here to do your therapy." He was sitting in the chair beside his bed, eyes half closed, slightly listing to the starboard. This is the normal posture of eighty-year-olds at 2 p.m. 

Without further ado, I grabbed his arm and began ranging it (short for performing Range of Motion) as I always did - first the shoulder, then elbow, then wrist and fingers. Hmm. He seemed a little stiffer than usual, so I commented about it. Mr. Maloney continued staring straight ahead as he always did, not bothering to comment as I chattered away while giving him a good work-out.

But suddenly I noticed that his chest was not moving. I stopped ranging him and spoke louder. "MR. MALONEY - ARE YOU FEELING ALL RIGHT?" Then I stuck my finger beneath his nose. No air moving in. No air moving out. Uh oh.

I dropped his arm like a hot potato and stepped back. Yup. He was unresponsive for a good reason. Mr. Maloney wasn't just mostly dead.

So I did what any good therapist would do. "I'll go get the nurse now, Mr. Maloney. Don't worry - there will be no charge for today's therapy."

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