I don’t use the word lovely a lot in my conversations. For whatever reason, it’s just not a word that rolls easily from my tongue and yet, for all of the years that Sarah Taylor has walked this earth, lovely is the first word that comes to mind every single time I think of her.
“She’s such a lovely person.”
“She has such a lovely personality.”
“She’s just lovely.”
And now that Sarah is all grown up, I find that she’s even lovelier than ever! It was an impression that flitted back and forth through my thoughts the entire while we sat today and visited about her immediate family, her late grandparents, and her post high school education so far.
Of course, Sarah is a Comanche High School graduate as well as an Abilene Christian graduate, receiving her first degree last May. From there, the beautiful young lady moved to Dallas in order to attend TWU, where she is doing her graduate studies in occupational therapy. Of course, I asked her to spell out for us exactly what is meant by the term.
“OT is basically helping people across the lifespan, from the NICU to the nursing home and all points in between the two. An occupational therapist helps patients learn or relearn how to participate in the things they need and want to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. The most basic activity can be defined as occupational: from brushing teeth or hair, taking a shower, and dressing, to cooking a meal, doing the laundry, or sweeping the floor.”
It wasn’t until I asked if she planned to specialize in one certain group of the populace, that Sarah stumbled, admitting that she is not sure at all.
“With how close I was to Gampy [Dr. William Calhoun], I love older people, but then in school I’ve found I love the thought of working with those who have suffered traumatic injuries such as brain injuries…but then, I love kids too,” she admitted before dissolving in laughter at her indecision.
Of course, there is no pat one-size fit for all because occupational therapy meets the patients right where they are at the moment.
“It depends on where people are in their lives. We all have so many different roles that we play throughout the course of our lives. We are moms, dads, and grandparents. We run the carpool, make snacks for the team, cook meals, and wash clothes. It just depends on where patients are in their life roles as to what they need from us.
“If you are at the point in life where your role is to get in the kitchen and prepare dinner for a family, then a therapist is going to get in the kitchen with you in order to help you regain that ability, whether it be to find ways to chop, stir, etc.
“If you are in the hospital when you begin your therapy, we will begin there by working on dressing, grooming, taking a shower, and those very basic needs. If you are in a rehab center, then that center probably has a mock bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, etc. We would use these to help you relearn how to do all of the things you will need to be able to do in these rooms. As we work, we might see that we need to rearrange the kitchen so that it is more easily functional for you, or maybe we will find that the bed needs to be positioned differently in order for you to easily manipulate the room. Basically, we are there to help our patients get back to living with as much independence as possible. Even community activities such as education and leisure activities fall within the scope of OT.”
According to Sarah, the term occupational therapy came into being in the early 1900s, when soldiers were given leather working or some type of crafts to do instead of just allowing them to lie in bed. The same was true in mental hospitals, where it was found that patients with something to do were much better off than those who did nothing.
So how long does all of this schooling take?
Sarah’s OT program at TWU is a 2 ½ year program.
“I would also love to do a residency after I graduate, but there are only a few hospitals (like Johns Hopkins) that offer a residency program, which is a one-year program, part classroom and part clinical. Obviously, having that residency experience would put me ahead of the game in the job market, and I would also learn so much from it.”
Of course, that is still two years down the road, and Sarah could always decide to continue her schooling by working toward her OTD (clinical doctorate) or even her PHD, which would qualify her to teach should she ever want to do that.
“It is so hard to choose a direction when you don’t know for sure what you want to do or where you are going to be. I know that I want to go somewhere that I can learn a lot and be exposed to a lot. That may be in the Metroplex, but I’m not sure. I really loved Abilene as well.”
And for now, there is no big decision to be made because Sarah Taylor still has two years of school left before she has to make her next big decision.
“Right now I know that occupational therapy is a career that provides a nice income with very rewarding ‘hands on’ types of experiences with other people. I will be able to help people understand that they are more than their disabilities, that their lives and their passions matter, and that is very important to me.”
Did I remember to tell you that Sarah Taylor is a very lovely person?