Aria Health Clinical Specialist and Certified Lymphedema Therapist
Q: What made you decide to become an occupational therapist (OT)?
I choose OT for several reasons – one of them being that my father had a stroke and I learned I wanted to be able to help others. I was originally a psychology major and was on the research path. While I was working as a research assistant, I was able to experience working hands on with people. That also made me realize that I wanted to impact people’s lives more directly. A friend recommended that I look into OT and the rest is history.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your career?
The best part is when I get to see my patients do something they haven’t done in a long time due to their condition. I have a patient that I helped to relearn how to tie their hair back into a ponytail after suffering from a stroke. There was also a patient whose speech became impacted because of their neck swelling. With my help, she was able to improve and return to work! I’d do all the hard work again just to see the smile and confidence in someone who has overcome difficult obstacles.
Q: What does an occupational therapist provide to those with lymphedema?
As an OT, we can also serve as a certified lymphedema therapist. That means that we can do the complete decongestive therapy (CDT) portion of lymphedema management. However, I think our secret sauce is that we’re fully trained to help patients make accommodations to their lives. Putting them and their needs is at the forefront of what we do. We make recommendations that will take into account what patients consider to be important – from budget to responsibility, and will make the new routines fit into the old.
Q: What has made the biggest impact on your patients’ health and well-being?
Their buy in and readiness to participate is so important. Patients who come in with readiness to change can achieve successful outcomes much faster. I do understand that changing lifestyles can be hard, and that’s why I’m proud to work for Aria Health. The portability and convenience of Aria Free™ can help reduce the burden and isolation of therapy.
Q: How do you know when you need to consult with an occupational therapist that specializes in lymphedema?
If you have lymphedema or swelling that persists for more than 3 months without a probable cause, you should seek the advice of your doctor or another health care provider if you have any concerns. Your provider may direct you to consult with a CLT.
Q: What are some challenges you deal with when treating patients with lymphedema?
Lack of compliance is the biggest challenge. Lymphedema management can almost be a full time job and it’s challenging for patients to adopt these practices into their lives. Which is why I’m so passionate about what Aria Health is doing. Aria Health was founded to transform the management of lymphedema and empower each and every patient to live their healthiest life.
Q: What is some advice you would give the next generation of occupational therapists that are treating patients with lymphedema?
Do not be discouraged! Keep your eye on your patient’s needs and progress! Learn from everyone you encounter – patients, other therapists, doctors. Your certification course is just the beginning of this never-ending learning journey!
Q: Lastly, what is the best advice you can give anyone living with lymphedema to live their best life?
I think my advice for anyone living with lymphedema right now is to not only address the physical components, but also the emotional. Our lymphatic system is a part of our immune system, and our immune system can be greatly affected by stress. The trauma of being diagnosed with lymphedema and having to change one’s lifestyle (and possibly dreams) must be addressed as well. Then you can move forward and live your best life. On a practical note – work with your doctor to understand if lymphedema therapy is right for you, and then find a lymphedema therapist who can guide you through managing your condition.
The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or another health care provider if you have any questions about a medical condition or treatment, and do not disregard your doctor’s advice because of any information provided on this site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately contact your doctor or call 911.