Hand Therapy

Grabbing Life by the Hand

Cyndi Paulsen hand therapy patientLife was a whirlwind for forty-eight year old Cyndi Paulsen, and she loved it. Besides a fulfilling job and treasured son, the Charlton resident played the guitar and drums in a local band and performed as a professional standup comic. But, last fall, Cyndi’s fast moving life came to a crashing halt when she lost control of her motorcycle on the road. Her body was left broken and bleeding, requiring extensive surgeries to save her life and rebuild her bones.

During recuperation, Cyndi stayed with her sister in Milford as her complicated injuries were addressed one by one. Due to major surgery on her broken wrist and time spent in a cast to keep it immobile, Cyndi’s left hand became contracted and stiffened into a claw-like appendage – virtually unusable and painful. “I couldn’t even open a packet of sugar, let alone take care of my personal needs,” recalls Cyndi. “You don’t think about how much you depend on having two working hands. I need to be able to grab life with both hands.”

Cyndi knew the condition of her hand was dire and that she would need expert care to regain any mobility. She was aware that Milford Regional’s Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine in Milford was one of only a few rehab facilities in the state that has certified hand therapists on staff. “Other places said they had “hand therapists,’ but I quickly found out that none of them were certified,” she explains. “I went to Milford and met Erin Culross, one of their certified hand therapists.”

The special designation of Certified Hand Therapist denotes an added level of knowledge that doctors and patients know can make a significant difference in an outcome. There are only 5,563 Certified Hand Therapists worldwide, according to the Certified Hand Therapy Commission. They must have a minimum of five years of clinical experience, including at least 4,000 hours or more of providing hand therapy to patients. They also have to pass a comprehensive test of their clinical skills and knowledge. In addition, they must be recertified every five years.

It didn’t take long for Cyndi to recognize that her decision to get therapy at Milford Regional’s rehab site was the right one. “I knew immediately that this is where I was meant to be? she says. “Erin was so knowledgeable, and she took my case on like my hand was as important to her as it was to me. I actually saw improvement in the hand right away. I knew it would take a while to get it back to where it used to be, but that journey started the moment I met Erin.”

Cyndi’s hand was one of the more extreme cases Erin had ever seen, but she never doubted what she and Cyndi could accomplish. Her goal from the start was to stretch out Cyndi’s joints, including those in her fingers and wrist, to give her back the full use of her hand. “Cyndi’s hand had contracted basically from lack of use during her treatment and recovery process,” Erin explains. “We used heat, preconditioning and different therapies to loosen up her joints so she could move them freely again. We also used different splints that Cyndi has had to be diligent about wearing at home. In only about five months, we’ve seen a world of difference.”

Cyndi is already getting reacquainted with her guitar and drumsticks. She has no doubt that she’ll be playing music again soon. “I’m going to be doing everything I used to do,” says Cyndi. “That’s the greatest thing about working with Erin. I know my life is going to be back to exactly what it was before… probably even better. Look out everybody. Here I come!”

Milford Regional’s Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine offers a complete range of sports medicine, physical, speech and occupational therapies at three convenient locations in Milford, Northbridge and Franklin. For more information, call 508-422-2388 or visit the Occupational Therapy page.

Go to In Their Own Words

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