Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

January 7, 2013

Be thankful for therapists

By Gelene Simpson
Corsicana Daily Sun

— I have always heard people say, “You are what you eat.” I believe that is true especially since I have been instructed to avoid fatty foods because of my health. But I also believe you are what you breathe and even how you breathe it.

When I was growing up, there wasn’t much being said about allergies. Colds and flu were the main topics with pneumonia being the dreaded complication. Even in 1957 when I began teaching in West Texas, I encountered only one student who had a problem, and it happened to be an allergy to tumbleweeds. Wouldn’t you know it! And actually that’s where I developed a bad headache every afternoon which turned out later to be caused from an allergy to all kinds of dust (mostly from erasers and dust storms).

But by the time that I was about ready to retire (1992), when I looked around my classroom, it seemed that a good number of students had not only one but multiple respiratory problems with serious asthma attacks often figuring prominently. Our air definitely isn’t what it used to be indoors.

The truth is that we take our breath for granted until we can’t draw it anymore. Then few people can remain cool and calm. But, guess what? God created respiratory therapists. Their entire demeanor is one of confidence, and they can maintain their composure even when pumping the needed air into the lungs from a special bag as they rush the patient to intensive care and the ventilator. They give one confidence that he is going to survive. And of course, when you control your anxiety and follow their directions, you can immediately see the benefit. Over and over they repeat the golden rule of respiration — “Take a slow deep breath.” If you must be shallow about anything, don’t let it be in your breathing.

Now, let’s talk about “you are what you eat.” I have quite a bit of experience with high cholesterol. I don’t know of any way to find out your cholesterol number without a test. You don’t have to have high blood pressure, or to be overweight, a drinker, smoker or a big consumer of fat to have high cholesterol. And high cholesterol alone can be enough to cause heart trouble. So the blood test to discover your cholesterol — both good and bad kinds — can actually be a life saver.

Another important consideration is how fats affect cholesterol. Total abstinence from fats can be detrimental. The body needs the oils from fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna. And not all carbohydrates are better than fats. Stick to the ones like whole grains, and yellow, orange, and green vegetables.

Remember that, just because you live over a difficult illness, it doesn’t mean you won’t get another one before you know it. You have to have help to get the body moving again and building up your stamina for activities that make you as self-sufficient as possible. There is often some pain and feeling of exhaustion involved so that you may insist that you can’t do that “one more” exercise. The therapist has to be a good judge of your physical limits and the strength of your spirit.

I have seen rehab therapists and counselors achieve what looks like a miracle, and I believe that a trust in God plays a big part in such recoveries. People who suffer from spinal cord injuries often achieve unbelievable results because of capable and determined rehab and occupational therapists who can take patients, weakened from months of illness, and help them renew their bodies and spirits so that they in turn can become encouragers of others like themselves who have suffered physical debilitation.

It is true that improvements in technology make possible many of the strides toward rehabilitation, but machines are only as effective as the ones using them. And nothing can replace the practiced hands of therapists who know exactly how to help release a muscle in a spasm.

An unforgettable experience I had many nights while sitting up with my late husband in an intensive care unit was seeing how the patients all seemed to relax and draw their breath more easily just by seeing that the respiratory therapist had entered the unit. May God bless all who have this calling.

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Gelene Simpson is a Daily Sun columnist. Her column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com