On a cold February day, RJ Payne, truck driver and father of two from Kinsman, Ill., reached up to pull open the clamp that holds the tailgate of his semi-truck shut.
At the same time, someone else pushed a button that would unknowingly cause the tailgate to smash RJ’s hand.
When the accident first happened, he didn’t know what he was dealing with.
“I didn’t realize it until the nurses in the ER tried to take my glove off, but my bone had gone through my palm and through the leather glove. It was cold outside, but once my hands started to warm up, the pain intensified.”
Following an emergency surgery, he was sent for hand therapy, where he met Occupational Therapist Wendy Feeney at ATI’s Morris, Ill., location.
RJ had never experienced a broken bone, let alone a devastating crush injury that involved several fractures and muscle complications. He was relieved, however, to be in the hands of an expert.
“When RJ first came in, I talked to his surgeon about the extent of RJ’s injury. I’d never had a doctor explain a situation quite like this. When he went to irrigate the wound, the fluid filled up in the palm of his hand, because there was no longer any bone in that area. It was crumbled. He had to piece it all back together in a very complicated surgery,” said Wendy.
“I couldn’t open lids, jars . . . button my pants! It was hard switching hands to brush my teeth. I was surprised that there were physical therapists who just dealt with hands,” said RJ when he was first evaluated by Wendy. “She really knows what she’s talking about.”
Though his therapy sessions were not always comfortable and often grueling following such a severe injury, RJ looked forward to his sessions with Wendy.
“The treatment plan was very involved. At first, we were working toward very simple tasks, like writing and holding a fork. Eventually, we progressed to preparing him for his return to work with our work conditioning program,” added Wendy.
“In over twenty years as an occupational therapist, RJ was one of the most inspiring patients I have ever worked with. He always maintained a very positive attitude that would actually affect other patients in the clinic, always understood the importance of giving 110% in order to maximize his outcome.”
“Everyone there was very polite, professional and knowledgeable. I looked forward to going because I knew the work we were doing was getting my hand back to normal function. Going to ATI was the highlight of my day.”
Due to re-injury causing some setbacks in his recovery, RJ had three rounds of therapy with Wendy, plus a work conditioning program, so the staff at ATI Morris got to know him very well.
“He was always such a jokester. One day, he wore a mullet wig to therapy and he was warming up on the bike . . . I didn’t recognize him!” added Wendy. “We loved having him around, but we are glad he is better and doesn’t need us anymore!”
“When I got hurt, it was my son’s first season playing baseball, and my daughter plays softball, so it was hard because I couldn’t play catch with them,” said RJ. “Thanks to ATI, you can guess what I’ll be doing as soon as the weather warms up.”
The staff at Morris had a going away party on RJ’s last day of treatment. Now back at work and driving a semi-truck again, he misses his time at ATI as a patient, but plans to visit the staff from time to time. “I felt like part of the family.”
To learn more about ATI Hand Therapy or for an ATI location close to you, visit www.ATIpt.com. ATI Physical Therapy is a nationally recognized orthopedic rehabilitation provider, specializing in physical therapy, sports medicine, work conditioning/hardening (F.I.R.S.T.™), functional capacity assessments, aquatic health, hand therapy, and women’s health. With over 200 clinics in seven states (Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania) ATI is known for its motivating staff, hands-on, personalized treatment programs, exceptional results and innovative research-based programs.