Move Like a Baby, Swim like a Jellyfish?

Part 1: Sunshine, Beaches & Bracelets

ResortIt was October 12th, 2013, and my plane had just landed in Montego Bay.


I was booked at the fabulous Sunset Beach Resort, a rather luxurious getaway destination plunked quite snugly on a gorgeous little peninsula off Montego Bay. Equipped with my sparkly new resort issued POWER BRACELET (an accessory that looked like something Barbie would wear), I was now free to gorge myself on endless supplies of food, drink, beach and sun.

But wait… wasn’t I here to work?

Part 2: Sitting, Standing & Swimming

If you don’t know about David (aka: The Jamaican Burrito), you can read about him in THIS earlier post. David was injured in a jet skiing accident that left him unable to control his lower body. After a few years of random therapy hopping, he landed in our 3 month intensive program. David did very well during his stay with us, and eventually headed home feeling positive that he would no doubt be walking on his own again soon.

David must have really missed the punishment we put him through, because after being back home for a couple of months he asked if one of our therapists would be willing to visit him in Jamaica to continue his therapy. The burden of this obviously uncoveted task fell onto my weary shoulders… and so there I was, no lokomat, no muscle stim units, no fancy nothin’. Just me, my hands, this ridiculous sparkly bracelet, and the 30ºc sun on my back.

Years in healthcare have taught me a simple lesson. The only real problem people suffer from, is lack of movement. David’s body, internally and externally, had moved very little in the past 6 years. Freeing up his muscles, joints and even his organs, was mandatory. Mornings were spent lengthening, shortening, twisting and bending poor David into shapes that would make a pretzel jealous.

Then, pool therapy was on the agenda (yup, pool therapy – I know, the life of a traveling therapist is hard). Being in a pool allows a person to move freely while not being as challenged by gravity. We used these sessions to work on both isolated and whole-body movement patterns. These sessions also seconded as a great opportunity for me to tan and drink gallons of coconut water. It was in the pool that David first regained the ability to bend his left knee, something he hadn’t been able to do since his accident.

The next step in our therapy plan was one I find is often overlooked… reeducating someone HOW to move. People tend to emphasize what someone CAN and CAN’T do. There’s rarely attention payed to what they COULD do, if you just showed them how to do it properly again. David had it in his head that he couldn’t stand. He never considered the possibility that he could, and that he just forgot how to.

Over the course of 5 days, David worked on movement patterns aimed at reminding him and his body how to stand. Patterns that loosely mimicked the way a baby would learn to stand (we can learn a lot from babies). Here’s a video showing the progressive sequence we worked on to get him standing again. It was the first time he had stood without using his hands for assistance in 6 years!

In the end, I was very happy with David’s progress, and left him with a daily training routine that should keep him progressing until the next time we meet.

Part 3: Food, Rocks & Jellyfish

FoodOk fine. I’ll admit it wasn’t all work. While I was there, David’s mom fattened me up on the best Jamaican home cookin’ a stomach could ask for (thanks Kathy!). This included REAL jerk chicken. If you haven’t experienced the real deal, Jamaican jerk chicken isn’t just about spice, it’s all about slowly smoking the meat!

JellyfishEvery day I also had a good amount of time to myself. Time I usually used to sit on some rocks along the seashore and stare mindlessly into the ocean. Sitting there, I was regularly visited by interesting sea life, like starfish, eels, lobster, and of course my favourite, and master of fluid movement, the jellyfish. 

In a wrap, Jamaica is much more than just sun and beach. It’s full of life, adventure, food, and wonderful people. I can’t imagine a better place to give or receive therapy. In fact, I might have to make a habit of going down there. Hey, somebodies got to do it, and my inner tan is still screaming to be unleashed (I know it’s in there).

On that note, thanks again for having me Dave and Kathy… so long Jamaica, and thanks for all the fish.

– Jesse

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