The Upending of Summer Plans
If you’re like me, you likely had a full schedule of summer plans. Plans to go on vacation or travel to a new destination. Maybe you had plans to start a project or learn a new skill. But also if you’re like me, you may have had plans to lead or participate in a short term medical mission trip. And lest I appear near-sighted, medical mission trips are not just headquartered from the United States. Brothers and sisters in Christ from all different countries use their medical skill and servant's heart to serve and share the Gospel all over the world and maybe you equally had summer plans revolving around medical mission trips.
I think no matter where we are in the world right now we can all agree that so many of our plans over the summer have been upended by COVID-19. Many international medical mission trips have been postponed due to travel restrictions and quarantines. I know this is true personally as I typically participate and lead medical mission trips over the summer months and had to make some of those difficult decisions to postpone trips. But needless to say, those opportunities have evaporated this year and those blocked weeks on my Google calendar have suddenly become free.
The clear calendar has allowed me to pause and think. Clearly, we are no longer operating our lives with a business as usual mentality. And I think that is a unique gift from God to help us slow down and reassess our lives. In that same vein, I think this is a great opportunity to be reflective about the international medical mission trips that we take every year. So I want to provide three important actions we can do now in the absence of international travel and short term medical mission trip opportunities.
Pray Fervently. I believe God answers the prayers of his people. We have an incredible opportunity to intercede and pray during this pandemic even though we may not be able to go help in person. We can pray for local churches all over the world that God would empower them to meet the needs of people around them. We can pray that God would miraculously provide necessary supplies so that our brothers and sisters around the world so they can meet those physical and spiritual needs. Pray generally but also pray specifically. I am praying specifically for those international churches with whom I am involved and for my missionary friends in different countries on the frontlines. And let's not forget to pray that God would end the spread of this virus. This has been a fruitful and humbling exercise for me. I am often guilty of focusing on tasks and getting the mission accomplished, however, the best and most productive thing I can do now, and should always do, is petitioning before the Lord. I am thankful for the conviction to pray fervently.
Think Critically. Just as we are assessing our personal lives if we want to go back to business as usual as a result of the pandemic, we should also be assessing our mission trip mentality during this break. Me and my family have talked about ways to incorporate some of the positive changes this viral outbreak has caused when things start to resume. Likewise, we need to spend time while we are not traveling and serving abroad to think critically about those mission efforts. Is what we were doing useful? Was it necessary? Could it be done better? Is what we were doing sustainable? Was it leading to dependence or independence? Was it edifying and encouraging brothers and sisters or detracting and discouraging them? What needs to change to be more effective? This may also be a great time to read some good books to help us think critically. I recently finished two very good books: Contagious Disciple Making by David and Paul Watson and We Are Not the Hero by Jean Johnson. We will have more discussions about these questions and topics in the future, but as of right now, let’s begin to think critically about our medical mission trips and other short term service engagements. We don’t want to cause more harm than good.
Serve Locally. Since I can’t really go out of my country and you may not be able to go out of your country, let’s take this opportunity to serve well in our own community. Maybe that means serving your patients in your clinic. Maybe that means volunteering your physical therapy skills for the underserved population in our city at a reputable clinic like the Christ Community network. Or maybe that means serving in a totally unrelated field to your skill set. Maybe it means serving with your family at a food bank to help local people get food during this pandemic. I don’t know where the Lord may have you serve locally, but let’s use this halt in our outbound service to look internally.
I hope you appreciate and ponder these three action items along with me. I want to look back on this global interruption and look fondly on the fact that I used the extra time well. I want to make sure that my prayer life was powerful, that I analyzed what we were doing in service projects to enhance them in future, and I want to invest in my family and local community to impact God’s Kingdom. With that in mind, let’s enjoy the remaining summer days and see how God uses us as we consider these three actions since our summer plans have been up!
Journal Club: Ortho/Neuro Edition
Today, the wheel of journal club topics falls on concussions! Concussions and mild head injuries are being talked about a lot these days. We hear it in sports analysis related to football head injury and subsequent CTE. We see the effects of it in mild to moderate trauma cases like motor vehicle collisions. The reality is that mild brain injury occurs frequently with wide ranging effects to the patient and their function.
That’s why I was intrigued when the most recent JOSPT journal published a massive review of evidence regarding concussion/mild traumatic brain injury. Believe me, it is massive! But the review is extremely helpful whether you are working with sport related athletes or a neuro therapist working with brain injury. I appreciate that out of all the evidence reviewed by the authors, they were able created very useful clinical practice guidelines for the evaluation and treatment of these types of problems.
Physical Therapy Evaluation and Treatment after Concussion/Mild TBI
Some of the highlights for me include the assessment of irritability and vestibular function. I don’t always delve into those types of assessments but they can be helpful in formulating appropriate interventions and improving your rehab outcome of a patient with concussion/mild TBI. Additionally, the authors concluded that a symptom-guided exertional tolerance test may be warranted to establish a baseline especially for those patients who indicate a desire to return to a high level of activity.
From a treatment standpoint, education is identified as a powerful intervention. If that patient understands the etiology, tissue healing physiology, and recovery process, then the rehab will be very beneficial. Additionally, posture exercises specific to the cervical and thoracic spine are recommended and vestibular rehab can be extremely beneficial, especially if the patient is dealing with dizziness.
Take some to digest this article. I think you will find it extremely informative and helpful in either the ortho/sport world, the neurological world, or the trauma world. What has been your experience in treating patients with concussion/mild TBI? What really worked and what didn’t? I would love to hear from you!
Faith at Work
Part of the mission of this blog is to also be a place of encouragement and equipping for your personal faith walk. When I am talking about faith walk I am referring to an explicitly Christian faith walk built on the authority of the Bible. That means that the worldview presented will be under girded by the foundational and doctrinal truths of God's word.
What are those truths? That God is holy. That we rebelled and sinned against him which resulted in brokenness in the world and in our lives. That Jesus is the son of God who came to earth to live a perfect life, suffer and die on a cross and be buried in a tomb only to rise again and reigns as a living king. That God's word is true and that the truth of God's word changes our lives. That believing on Jesus' name and repenting of sin will grant salvation and eternal life. And that following Christ means carrying out his disciple-making mission to the world.
Hopefully, many of you who have joined this journey believing those truths wholeheartedly. If you haven't, I would encourage you to send a me letter for more detail about finding a hope in life and death and an ultimate purpose in your life and work. But when we operate out of an explicitly biblical worldview we begin to see that it affects everything in our lives. It changes how we think about and approach ever single decision and action in our lives. It changes how we view our work as physical therapists.
Have you ever thought if there was a higher purpose in your work? There is. Our job as a physical therapist is not just about helping others get better and back to their life. It is not just about providing for your family. It is not just about pursuing professionalism and increasing your knowledge. It is no less than those things, but it is significantly more.
God gave you the skill, ability, and talents you have to be used for his glory and his mission. Our job is one of the tools by which God carries out his plan of reconciliation. Think about your work and your skill as a gift God has entrusted to you to be used effectively for his kingdom. When we start viewing our work in that light, it becomes less burdensome and more fulfilling.
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." Col. 3:23-24.
The Gospel at Work