My name is Sarah Mawhinney and I am a physiotherapist at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington. I work full-time at the Hand & Upper Limb Clinic with patients who have suffered traumatic injuries to their hands/upper limbs. On March 16, the Ambulatory Care clinics at our hospital were closed due to COVID-19. Since then, life as I know it has completely changed. In the last seven weeks, we have made the shift to virtual hand therapy consultations via OTN (Ontario Telemedicine Network) while still providing face-to-face consultation and splinting for our urgent post-operative, post-traumatic patients. I also spent several weeks reorienting myself to physiotherapy in an inpatient medical/surgical setting - skills I have not used in a number of years. I volunteered to be redeployed to where I was most needed, which has turned out to be a ward housing COVID-19 positive patients not requiring critical care.
There has been a steep learning curve, but I've been so fortunate to work with an amazing OT partner, along with a fantastic and supportive team of nurses. The very first patient I saw was a gentleman in his 60s, ventilated in the ICU for two weeks and then weaned off the ventilator and moved down to the ward. I had the privilege of mobilizing him for the first time, rehabilitating him inside his room (due to his COVID-19 status) and, last week, he was discharged home. I am happy to say that, so far, I've seen many patients make it to the other side of COVID-19 and go home.
The COVID 19 pandemic has been a challenge for so many. For me, I have been pushed to work outside of my comfort zone - working on the floors again and working as a "virtual" hand therapist. I appreciate the challenge as it has helped me develop new skills, new ways of problem solving, and a deeper appreciation for the great team of health care professionals I get to work with every day. I've heard it said before, but it seems especially poignant these days - doctors and nurses save lives (I've seen it with my own eyes), but allied health professionals make that life worth living. I've never been more proud to be a physiotherapist.