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Her handy work for his healing hands

January 25, 2013

Michelle Holmgren, Public Affairs & Community Relations Specialist
(Office) 413-967-2296 (Cell) 413-237-6743


Her Handy Work for His Healing Hands
Ware, MA (January 24, 2013) - Rebecca Sherman, of Palmer, was just 24 years old when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune condition. From the onset, she vowed that this progressive disease, which causes damage to joints with significant pain and swelling, would not keep her from being active.
An avid quilter, Sherman also enjoyed cross stitch, and was able to continue her crafts thanks to daily doses of prednisone which allowed her some pain relief and ease of movement. While prednisone is useful in the treatment of arthritis since it acts both as an anti-inflammatory agent and immunomodulator, it is can also have some significant side effects. So when Sherman decided to have children, she stopped taking the medication,
Three children later, the pain and swelling in Sherman’s wrists had grown progressively worse and she decided to look into surgical options for relief. One option was wrist fusion, a procedure that eliminates all movement at the wrist joint by securing the bones of the forearm to the bones in the wrist and hand. A fusion provides predictable relief of pain from wrist arthritis, but the loss of motion can prevent some normal activities. The other option, which offers better outcomes for movement and function of the hand, is wrist replacement. This procedure includes removal of the damaged bone, and replacement with a metal and plastic implant,
Sherman chose wrist replacement, with her first surgery in 2010 and the second in 2011. “My surgery was done in Boston, but I wanted to do my follow-up hand therapy close to home. After the first surgery, I did an extensive web search and found that there were only two certified hand specialists in the area; I was pleased to learn that this specialized therapy was offered at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware.” Soon afterwards, Sherman met with, Kevin Smith, Occupational Therapist & Certified Hand Therapist.
“Any pain or loss of function in a hand, arm or shoulder can devastate a person’s life,” said Smith, who has worked for twelve years as an occupational therapist and for seven years as a certified hand therapist at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital. “As an occupational and hand therapist, I help my patients return to their normal lifestyle following a major surgery or a fracture, and if necessary to learn the skills they need to live an independent, satisfying and productive life.”

Recalling her first few therapy treatments, Sherman noted that they focused on controlling the pain and swelling from surgery. “Kevin soon began gentle range-of-motion exercises and strengthening exercises to give added stability to my wrist joint,” said Sherman. “Many of the exercises we did were similar to daily activities, and were designed to get my hand and wrist working in ways that would improve my strength and help me regain fine motor skills.”

Knowing what to expect from surgery and therapy, Sherman went into her second surgery feeling that much more confident. “Through it all, I developed a wonderful relationship with Kevin,” she said. “As the need for regular hand therapy visits with Kevin ended, I have to admit I was disappointed. Kevin had become a very special part of my life and my recovery from surgery.

Now actively back to quilting, Sherman created a special quilt for Smith. “Kevin is a wonderful guy, and I would recommend him to anyone,” said Sherman. “He gave me support and friendship and helped me to heal. And most importantly, he gave me back the gift of the use of my hands. I designed a “hand quilt” for him to let him to know just how grateful I am for his expertise and for the care he gave me.”

A Certified Hand Therapist is recognized by many professional organizations as a benchmark for excellence in upper extremity rehabilitation. These specialists are a part of an exceptional group of Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists who have a minimum of five years of clinical experience, including at least 4,000 hours of direct practice in hand therapy.
Kevin Smith joins the Rehabilitation team at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital which includes physical therapists and physical therapy assistants, an occupational therapist, speech/language/swallowing pathologist, and audiologist. Together, they provide a full range of rehabilitation services to help patients regain function and achieve recovery. For more information about Rehabilitation Services including Occupational and Hand Therapy Services, at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital call (413) 967-2180.