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Physical, occupational, speech therapy comes with challenges

Physical, occupational, speech therapy comes with challenges Martin Lawler, who supervises therapists at DeGraff Memorial and Millard Fillmore Suburban hospitals, and Buffalo Therapy Services, says he focuses on administrative duties so the 50-plus workers on his staff can focus on patient care. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)


Martin Lawler has seen a lot of change in his 30 years in the health field, including his last two decades as a physical therapist and his last two as manager of three Kaleida Health therapy efforts.

He talked about some of them – including a new cancer rehab program – as part of today’s In the Field feature in WNY Refresh.

Here’s what he said about the greatest challenge in the therapy field:

“In general, the hardest thing for us to do as rehab professionals is to make people understand that we are only as good as our patient. I don’t make an individual better, and an occupational therapist doesn’t make an individual better. A speech therapist doesn’t make an individual better. It’s the education we provide but it’s the physical effort and the dedication of the patient that ultimately leads to their improvement.

“We have to motivate, we have to encourage. Some people think we make them better. We don’t. You make yourself better. We’re here to keep you safe and give you the guidance to do that.”

During hospitalizations, it can be helping someone after surgery get out of bed or out of a chair, walk a hallway or climb the stairs, all in an effort to get them back home. In an outpatient setting, the work generally focuses on orthopedic or neurological work, helping to improve the range of motion, and address pain, in one or more parts of someone’s body.

When he talked about his wife, Nancy, a South Buffalo native who works as a speech therapist, he paused for almost minute. The biggest challenge for someone in that profession can be heart-wrenching.

“The majority of what they do in the hospital is with swallowing issues,” he said. “People who have strokes or a neurological problem, if they’re choking or have pnemonia, speech therapists have to assess the consistency of the food and have to tell some people that they can’t eat anymore.

“I think that’s the hardest job in the hospital, to tell somebody that they can’t drink or eat anymore because the food is not going into the stomach, it’s going into the lungs. And with swallowing issues, because you can’t see them, it’s difficult to get the information across to the patient and to the family."

Even at that point, he said, hope remains for many.

“You can have alternate levels of nutrition, feeding tubes. Some people they can help, some not.”


Twitter: @BNrefresh


  • Matt F

    Jerry another great article. Whaley looks terrible and I'm not surprised. He's a terrible interview and to me that's a red flag if you're an executive. Very poorly managed. But I'm glad EJ takes a seat. I couldn't bear watching another uninspiring performance. More than 1/2 of his completes we're check downs and he lacked confidence. We move on, on the brink of what will most likely be another 6-10.

  • Greg

    I just watched Alex Smith and the Chiefs whomp the Pats. We could have had Alex Smith for the first round pick we spent on EJ. Crazy...

    • jimbo

      Too bad being the godchild of Bruce Smith didn't include any of his athletic ability 😉

  • BuffBooster

    It appeared that the next new trend in the NFL was the read-option QB, what with the early success demonstrated by Russell Wilson, Kaepernick, and RGIII. Well, RGIII's career is in limbo, Kaepernick has been up & down of late, while Wilson is the only one of the three who has consistently thrived, primarily because Seattle has Beast Mode and RW doesn't have to run that much.
    The jury is still out on the efficacy of running QBs in the pro game. Randall Cunningham was injured relatively early on & his career was never the same. Even before the dog-fighting conviction, Michael Vick has been battered about like a tackling dummy and has played hurt more often than not.
    NFL defensive linemen & linebackers are so huge & fast these days that the personal safety of scrambling QBs is in jeopardy every time they sprint out of the pocket.
    It must be said that EJ has shown some amazing escapability at times and has gotten more judicious about picking his spots to run & getting out of bounds or sliding. So he may, like Wilson, avoid getting hurt if, and when, he plays again.
    The contention that Manuel can't be a starting QB is premature. Maybe his sitting down and watching an old pro operate can refine his thought process and simultaneously take some pressure off him.
    The fact is that no one - repeat no one, including coaches, players, fans, and omniscient columnists - knows what lies ahead for EJ. So I'm not dismissing his chances to rebound from this apparent setback ("apparent" because it may be a blessing in disguise for the young man) until all the evidence is in.
    There clearly is a lot of vehement opposition to this train of thought and fans are entitled to their opinion. I intend to keep an open mind and observe how the sequence of events play out.
    I'll only add that, though the Bills lost a tough one vs. Houston, they battled to the end and that's both admirable & promising. Go Bills!

    • jimbo

      EJ may have the potential to develop into an NFL starter, but he has no chance with this team, at least not under current management.

    • Mark

      Excellent post. I am glad they benched Manuel. I'll admit, I do not think he is an NFL caliber quarterback, and frankly, was both surprised and impressed that Marone did it. I also agree with you about this possibly being a good thing for the young quarterback. In Cleveland, when it was finally announced that Brian Hoyer would start instead of the vaulted "Johnnie Football", Manziel himself came out and admitted that he was relieved because he felt he wasn't ready. It took a TON of pressure off of him and he can watch and learn and not feel he is thrust into something he isn't ready for . Again, maybe this will be a good thing for Manuel. For his sake and the Bills' sake, I hope so.

  • ad-block-pessimist