About two months ago, I underwent knee surgery. Today I am still in the process of recovering, but doing very well. The day I was finally off my crutches was an exciting day, and not long after that, I was able to walk completely on my own again. I still see my physical therapists, Patrick and Lindsay, here at UTMB on a regular basis. During a recent therapy session, Patrick told me that I am indeed making great progress, but now I needed to begin working on my gait.
I thought, “My gait? This is how I’ve walked my entire life!” He explained that because I was recovering from surgery, I had naturally compensated for my recovering knee by leaning a little to one side as I walked—I now needed to focus on centering my body more evenly above my hips, think about the amount of weight I put on each leg as I walked, and I should push off from my big toes. There were many instructions!
As I tried to remember each correction, I realized I actually had to concentrate to walk with proper posture and gait. Although I’m not entirely certain how I’ll change these long-time habits, I know I have to stay the course to improve so I can be in the best physical condition. It’s going to take time and effort!
After my therapy session, I attended a special presentation by Dr. David Henderson, primary author of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America Guidelines, who presented valuable information on the prevention and treatment of bloodborne pathogen exposures.
After the lecture, I walked back to my office from Levin Hall Auditorium, and I decided to stop in the cafeteria and quickly grab something for lunch. There, I saw Karen Chapman, director of Rehabilitation Services. I took the opportunity of our chance meeting to tell her that I could never have recovered so quickly without the help of all the wonderful physical therapy staff members, and that I am very grateful for the excellent care I have received.
Karen told me that she was very pleased I had a good experience, but she had noticed as she walked behind me after the lecture that my knee might be better, but now it was time to work on my gait. “Seriously?” I thought. “Why is everyone so interested in my gait?”
Back at my desk, I thought about my morning appointment and the conversation I had with Karen, and it reminded me that it is much harder to learn to undo something you’re used to than it is to learn something new. It is also easy to slide back into the old way of doing something if we don’t maintain our focus. For example, I noticed that when I concentrate only on walking properly, I can walk as I am supposed to walk; but as soon as I am distracted, I slide right back into my old gait.
In health care, we have so many changes hitting us all at once. No wonder people feel stressed and overworked. The pace of change is unlike any I have seen before. It makes sense that we have a hard time making real and sustained change. However, I know that if we prioritize our work and stay focused on the highest priorities, we will eventually reach the point where we will have real and sustained change. This is why everyone in the Health System is working very hard right now to narrow the list of new priorities for the coming year so we can remain focused on opening the new Jennie Sealy Hospital, making the new League City Hospital a success, and most of all, taking great care of our patients.
It is truly amazing to see how much progress we’ve made just in the last few years, and it is very exciting to know we’ll soon be caring for and supporting our patients and their families in these amazing new facilities. I remember when we first began planning for our new future, the many projects at hand seemed daunting. At the time, opening day of the new buildings seemed far away in the future.
From that point forward, everyone at UTMB understood that we would have to stay focused, and we had to remind ourselves regularly that achievements of this magnitude could only be made by taking the process one day at a time. And here we are today–it’s the first day of May 2015 and we are starting the move into the new Clinical Services Wing, preparing to open the new League City Hospital early this fall, and by next year at this time, we’ll be in the new Jennie Sealy Hospital.
While it seems that new initiatives arise just as previous initiatives are completed, there is something I can say with certainty: our accomplishments are remarkable. Every single individual at UTMB Health has played an important role in that success and should be proud of their contributions.
There is a quote by author Marabel Morgan: “Persistence is the twin sister of excellence. One is a matter of quality; the other, a matter of time.” With steady focus and determination, new changes not only get easier with time, but before we know it, we have reached our goal, and we are better and stronger than before we began!