Physical therapist changes work schedule to accommodate patient
Toni Vechinski, a physical therapist, listened intently as her patient, an elderly woman who had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, told her story.
The woman said her No. 1 priority was taking care of her husband in their home. He has dementia and cannot be left alone so she wasn’t sure whether she’d be able to make the one-hour appointments four times a week at UCHealth Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Center – Grandview. She said her son might be able to help, but she didn’t want him to miss work.
Vechinski, a licensed physical therapist for 21 years, wanted to figure out a solution. She strongly believes in early physical therapy for Parkinson’s patients, and she knew that if the woman stayed strong, she could continue to care for her husband.
Vechinski called the patient’s son, talked more with her patient and the three of them worked out a plan: Vechinski would alter her schedule so her patient could come for therapy at 7 a.m. four days a week, instead of 8 a.m. That way, the son could watch his father before work and avoid missing too much time at his job.
“In order for her to continue to take care of her husband, she needed to take care of herself,’’ Vechinski said.
It seemed like a small sacrifice for Vechinski, but big dividends for the patient who would benefit from exercises designed to slow or reverse the effects of Parkinson’s disease.
“For me, if I can help somebody, I don’t even consider it an inconvenience for me to change my schedule. If I have the ability to help somebody and it requires a little extra on my end, I’m always open to that.
“Whatever I can do to help, I will help you. If it just means that I have to adjust my schedule and I have to get up a little bit earlier, I believe in the program. I know that this is something that would help her and it brings me happiness to help someone. It becomes very fulfilling for me.’’
Vechinski has worked nearly 20 years at UCHealth. She said she loves working as a physical therapist because there is enormous satisfaction in seeing patients rebound from accidents or illnesses.
“I love that I can make a difference in a person’s pain or help them improve their function, whether it was some type of trauma that limited their movement, or they were in a lot of pain. I enjoy being able to get them back to their normal life, to improve their quality of life and get them back to the things that give them pleasure,” she said, be it recreational pastimes or spending times with friends.
After 16 physical therapy sessions that began at 7 a.m., the patient’s mobility improved. She could stand and sit faster, walk more quickly and complete complex tasks better.
For Vechinski, that’s all the reason she needs to get out of bed in the morning, even if it’s an hour earlier.