People choose healthcare as a profession because we have a deep desire to assist others in times of need. It’s our unique way to make a difference in someone’s life and to make this world a better place. Our health and our life is the most precious asset we have. When a person has been ill or injured, the hope is that recovery is possible. Regardless of the condition, we hear stories of miraculous recovery as well as devastating loss. Why do some people recover while others do not?
In Part 2 of the series, Why You Won’t Heal, I discuss a topic that no one really wants to hear. Regardless of intent and hope, sometimes an injury or condition just isn’t capable of healing. Our current knowledge of the human body through the use of Western or Eastern medicine may not be able to assist the person in healing.
While most of my post rehabilitation clients have been able to move forward and live successful lives, there are other clients who are unable to heal and recover. Therapy (like speech, occupational, and physical) and assistance from physical medicine physicians and other rehabilitation specialists can help the client to live the best life possible with adaptive equipment and technology when recovery to prior function isn’t possible.
Sadly, some medical conditions are not curable, and a person will not have the ability to heal. It’s important to keep in mind that there is wide variation of how these types of conditions will present and how a person can adapt and overcome to still lead a productive life. It’s also important to realize that each individual responds differently to an injury. One should always try everything he or she can to reasonably try to heal and recover. However, if those efforts fail, then the focus needs to be on adapting (and not recovering) in order to live a productive and fulfilled life.
Below is a partial list of injuries that may not be able to heal, so other means of adaptation must be taken:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Severe spinal nerve root injuries causing paralysis
- Some peripheral nerve injuries
- Severe brain injuries
- Some cerebral vascular accidents (CVA’s), known as brain attacks or strokes
- Some types of infections
- Loss of limbs
- Some chronic progressive neurologic diseases
This list is by no means exhaustive. No two injuries are alike, so you may have one or more of these conditions and have recovered or nearly recovered. However, sometimes recovery just isn’t possible. Openly discuss the injury or condition along with the associated impairments in order to acquire methods of adaptation. Continuously looking for a cure or waiting for a complete recovery can derail your ability to adapt and move on with a productive life.
Common Traits that may Impair Your Ability to Heal:
- There is catastrophic neurologic involvement. This may be from severe injury to the brain, spinal cord or larger peripheral nerves.
- There is a chronic progressive neurologic disease which currently doesn’t have treatment methods available.
- There is an incurable viral or other type of incurable illness.
- There has been catastrophic injury to the musculoskeletal system to the point that repair isn’t possible (such as in the case of amputation).
- There has been catastrophic injury to other organs of the body either through trauma or other chronic disease. In the case of severe kidney disease, the only remaining treatment is dialysis.
If you or your loved one suffers from an illness or injury that is likely unable to heal or improve, then a heartfelt honest discussion with your medical provider is in order. This is critical if you or your loved one wants to take the next step of learning how to adapt around the condition and continue to live a productive life.
One of the reasons I chose to be a physical therapist was to help others. Throughout my career, I have met many clients who have been ill or injured without hope of recovery. Yet these clients (through the use of current adaptive equipment and the will to overcome) are living very inspiring and fruitful lives. If you can’t fix it, then adapt around it!
What has your experience been like when learning how to adapt to an injury or condition of yours or that of a loved one? Please leave your comments below.
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