It all started with a disease. Antonia Gallo was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease with muscle weakness, most commonly causing double vision, dropping eyelids, and difficulty walking and talking.
Antonia had trouble chewing, walking, and even smiling. She needed help, but she didn’t know where to turn. It wasn’t until her 20s when she discovered occupational therapy. She was pursing nursing at the time and switched career paths to become an OT. Antonia wanted to give people the help she didn’t get as a teenager.
Today Antonia is an OT and Director of Rehab for Infinity Rehab. She currently serves in long-term care at Good Shepherd Lutheran Communities in Blair, Nebraska.
It’s all about the patient
Antonia enjoys helping patients at their lowest and helping them see they can progress and reach their goals.
“It’s more than gaining strength and getting dressed,” she said. “It’s about having a fulfilling life and doing the things you enjoy and making that possible.”
It’s almost like putting together pieces of a puzzle – Antonia considers different ways to help patients accomplish their goals.
“As a therapist, your goal is to do whatever benefits the patient,” she stated.
As the Director of Rehab, Antonia enjoys multitasking, tracking patient progress, and working with fellow Infinity Rehab therapists to help patients.
Giving a patient a much-needed wheelchair
One of Antonia’s patients had experienced a stroke – it impacted his vision and his hands. He couldn’t figure out where his body was in space. People told him he wouldn’t be able to use a power wheelchair.
Antonia asked if anyone had tried. He replied no.
“I pulled some strings, and now he has a power chair,” Antonia reported. “He does it completely on his own.”
Staff help the patient in and out of the chair with a Hoyer lift.
“And then he’s off, and he’s safe,” Antonia said.
A combination of science and creativity
Julianne Cooper, OTR and Infinity Rehab team member, is the Senior Director of Rehab at Clermont Park. She was first drawn to occupational therapy in college because it uses both sides of the brain – you need to be both science-minded and creative.
You must think outside the box, Julianne said, and think of new ways to help people achieve what they want to do.
Becoming an OT wasn’t Julianne’s first experience in healthcare. She volunteered in college to help people with developmental disabilities, meeting one-on-one with the individuals. She also helped with the Special Olympics.
Today, as a DOR, Julianne enjoys seeing patients reach their goals.
“The biggest satisfaction from our job as OTs is seeing patients achieve what they want to do – from losing independence and showing them they can get that back, and seeing their excitement, even seeing them get their socks on,” Julianne said.
Driving change on the Practice Council
Both Antonia and Julianne are members of Infinity Rehab’s OT Practice Council, where team members foster change and serve as a resource for fellow Infinity Rehab clinicians.
Julianne, member for three years, enjoys sharing her input and making impactful decisions for her fellow OTs throughout Infinity Rehab.
Antonia, member for about two years and first leader of the OT Practice Council, loves being part of something bigger and knowing she has an influence.
One of the large initiatives the OT council has worked on is the self-efficacy roll-out. This allows a patient with a score of 10 or less on the Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination, a screening for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, to skip the self-efficacy daily activities form. In addition, Antonia modified the self-efficacy assessment questions to better suit long-term care patients.
More recently, the OT Practice Council has been working on implementing a new clinical model, strategizing how it will fit into their daily practices.
The Practice Council provides a way for all Infinity Rehab clinicians’ voices to be heard. Infinity Rehab clinicians can submit their questions, concerns, or ideas to the Practice Council through their director, area rehab director, or by contacting any member of the Practice Council.
Thank you to our OTs
In honor of National Occupational Therapy Month, thank you to our many wonderful OTs! As Antonia said, occupational therapy is more than helping patients gain strength. You’re helping someone get their life back.
Thank you for your diligence, your creativity, and your true love for your patients and your job!