April is National Occupational Therapy Month; “Living Life to the Fullest” is the 2023 theme

Occupational Therapy at VMH ... “Living Life to the Fullest” is the theme for April as National Occupational Therapy Month. Pictured above is Patty Goltz, at right, with Tami Gebel, Occupational Therapist, at left, at Veterans Memorial Hospital. Tami helped Patty return to playing pickle ball and golf thanks to her expertise in occupational therapy, allowing Patti to once again “live life to the fullest.” Submitted photo.

by Tami Gebel,
Occupational Therapist,
Veterans Memorial Hospital

“Living Life to its Fullest.” What an inspiring statement. This creed has been adopted by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) in celebration of April being National Occupational Therapy month. Occupational therapists throughout the U.S. are celebrating the month dedicated to acknowledging the profession.

In May 1999, I moved to Waukon from Minneapolis in order to start my first full-time job as an occupational therapist. Over the past 24 years, there have been lots of changes within these hospital walls, from physical appearance to personnel; however, the one thing that has not changed is the dedication and hard work of the employees here at Veterans Memorial Hospital.

The role of occupational therapists is to provide treatment to people of all ages, birth to 100+ years, so they are able to participate in the everyday activities that they need and want to do. Occupational therapists (OTs) ensure that elderly patients are capable to safely perform routine activities, such as dressing, bathing, and cooking in their homes. They work with adults to regain movement, strength, and endurance to complete work-related tasks, housekeeping chores, and childcare tasks.

Occupational therapists provide therapy to children and youth to gain fine motor skills required to complete school tasks such as writing, coloring, typing, and tying shoes. In addition, they work with athletes to increase strength and reduce the risk of re-injury after returning to a sport. OTs can even address the skills required to complete leisure activities, such as playing the piano, knitting, gardening, and carpentry work.

Patty Goltz of Waukon, was cooking in August 2022 when she dropped and broke a glass bowl. A piece of the glass cut her left wrist and the tendon that moves her thumb. Patty required surgery to repair the tendon and received therapy at Veterans Memorial Hospital. She is left-handed and her goal was to be able to return to playing pickle ball and golf.

Following therapy, she was able to return to her leisure activities with much joy!

“One of the first times I went to Tami, she said to take my thumb and touch it to each finger individually, which normally would be nothing, but I couldn’t even do that.  She assured me she would get me to that point, and she did,” explains Patty.  “The little things like that you don’t think about until you can’t do them. She did so good and sent exercises home with me to do on the days I didn’t have therapy, and even exercises to do in the car when traveling.”

“She and Melissa are both just amazing,” adds Patty.  “I can do everything I could do before my injury! They were so good to work around my schedule and I was so glad I could do it all here in town. When I was in La Crosse after surgery, I told them we have a great therapy department right here in Waukon, so they referred me here and I was able to get this successful treatment right close to home.”

An occupational therapist assesses and treats the whole person, not just the physical, but also the psychological, emotional and social aspects of a person’s life. At Veterans Memorial Hospital, the occupational therapy staff has helped, and will continue to help people of all ages regain the ability to complete activities that simply make life worth “living to its fullest.”