Chris Sterrett
Patient Chris Sterrett is grateful that his team didn't push him when he was in too much pain to rehab. (Photo: Courtesy Chris Sterrett)

When Chris Sterrett arrived on a gurney at Toronto Rehab's Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation and Multi-System Inpatient Unit, the 56-year old was determined to be discharged as fast as possible.

But he was also in an incredible amount of pain.

Having just endured a total right hip replacement, plus a length adjustment of his right leg – to correct the long-term physiological impacts of a road accident he sustained many years ago – Chris' muscles were in a knot. Any motion exacerbated the pain.

"On a scale of one to 10, the pain was at about a two when I was resting, but an eight when I moved," says Chris, who lives in Willow Beach, Ont., on the shores of Lake Simcoe. "I'm stubborn and wanted to get back on my feet, but when I tried to turn or lift my leg, the pain was excruciating."

Fast-forward just nine days, when Chris was discharged. He walked out of rehab armed with just a pair of crutches to support him. His pain while in motion had dropped to a two.

What occurred in such a short time to earn such a dramatic result? His healthcare team created an environment that balanced compassion for his pain with a level of encouragement that matched his own determination.

"Every day was motivating, and staff members were constantly understanding and patient," Chris says. "I wasn't expecting a whole team to be assigned to me."

Delivering compassionate care

"It was reassuring and made me feel comfortable," he says.

Chris remembers visiting the gym for the first time, where he was encouraged to increase his minimal movements. In far too much pain to lift as much as a heal off the bed, not much progress was made during those early days.

But staff members were gentle and listened to how Chris was feeling.

"They applied hot and cold compresses to the knot, and after the first few days, the intensity eased quite a bit," he says.

Sylvie Robinson, Program Services Manager, MSK Rehab, says: "Pain is a typical hurdle that we face, and it needs to be recognized, assessed, talked about and treated.

"The number one thing is to reassure patients that it's normal to experience pain," Sylvie says. "Then, we help them manage it, both pharmacologically and non-pharmacologically, and sometimes adjust to their individual pace."

Once the knot loosened, Chris' rehab took off. He especially remembers his sessions with physiotherapist Chris Chen.

"He was always cheerful, but pushed me to the limit and then some, in a way that was encouraging, and not aggressive," Chris says of the physio.

Chris has resumed his busy life

Sylvie says patients "come to us at their most vulnerable time, and we can't help but feel compassion for them.

"But we also need to stretch their limits a bit. We know we can make a difference, and we know that we can help them get through this, so when they leave, they're at the point where it's safe to return to their communities."

Chris has now been home for a few months, and has resumed his busy life. He says he feels fortunate to have landed at Toronto Rehab.

"The level of care that I experienced was second to none, and I greatly appreciate it," he says.

Sylvie is proud to lead a team that delivers care with compassion, and respects the individual journey of each patient.

"We were present during a very important time of Chris's life," Sylvie says. "And, we feel special to have been part of it."

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