In July 2017, I celebrated 10 years of being a stroke physiatrist. Ten years of caring for an underserved population at the first Joint Commission Comprehensive Stroke Center in Houston. With an uninsured population of over 50%, our rehabilitation unit at Memorial Hermann Hospital – Texas Medical Center is the only opportunity for acute stroke patients to receive rehabilitative care.
It has been the most fulfilling experience.
An experience that has taught me the value of patient advocacy. To raise my voice for those who can no longer speak. To bound up the steps of the United States Capitol for those who can no longer walk and to be brave in the face of fear.
Ten years of home visits. Beaumont, Port Arthur, Victoria, Waller, Huntsville. Backyard BBQ’s to celebrate one year stroke free. Walking without a cane to an anniversary celebration. Smiling with them. Dancing with them.
Seeing what happens when the primary wage earner can no longer work. Learning about the SSI application process. Saying goodbye to patients who can no longer afford to come to clinic follow-ups. Watching patients cry. Crying with them.
Being fortunate enough to share life with them. I have learned the true meaning of service. The blessing of giving without a thought of reciprocity. The art and science of clinical research – collecting good data and translating my findings into 4,000 words to teach others. Visiting hospitals within our 200-mile telemedicine radius and speaking about the importance of evidence based stroke rehabilitation.
The need for true mentors. When faced with adversity, mentors that strengthen you, fight for you and believe in you. Mentors that sign you up for classes unexpectedly. Mentors that encourage you to pursue another degree. Mentors that talk about you kindly to others and want you to achieve more than you dream. Becoming a mentor to others. Hoping to live up to the mentorship you have received.
Ten years in Physiatry is more than you can imagine. I so look forward to the next ten.