With creativity and commitment, therapists help a little girl during Coronavirus outbreak

Speech-Language Pathologist Alexie Gendron(left) and Physiotherapist Sara Wight (right) dress up in costume to lead a 4-year-old girl through a “virtual” therapy session on Skype.
Speech-Language Pathologist Alexie Gendron(left) and Physiotherapist Sara Wight (right) dress up in costume to lead a 4-year-old girl through a “virtual” therapy session on Skype.

When a 4-year-old girl with motor disabilities was unable to attend her therapy session at the Mackay site due to COVID-19 restrictions, two therapists from our CIUSSS came up with an imaginative solution.

Physiotherapist Sara Wight and Speech-Language Pathologist Alexie Gendron held a “virtual” therapy session with the little girl instead. They set up Skype on an iPad in the Mackay physiotherapy gym, while the girl and her mother followed the 45-minute session at home.

The remote therapy appointment was an example of how staff from our CIUSSS are showing creativity and commitment in the face of COVID-19. Even under difficult circumstances, their dedication ensured they continue to deliver services to those in need.

“We know that our kids and families work so hard to put into place the things we ask of them, so we want to make sure they feel supported,” says Ms. Wight, a 0-7 Children Program Physiotherapist at the

Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre (LLMRC). “If we can provide comfort and continuity to them, that’s really important.”

Ms. Wight and Ms. Gendron thought up the idea of the Skype session after COVID-19 concerns led to the suspension of direct services, meaning that clients could not come in for hands-on therapy. The two wanted to try to continue therapy for the little girl, one of their regular clients, and came up with the idea of a “remote” session in a matter of days, working in co-operation with the girl’s family.

While the girl and her mother followed them through Skype at home, the two led therapy exercises through a series of games: They staged a make-believe tea party, sang HeadShoulders, Knees and Toes, and played Hide and Seek. The girl did the same exercises at home. To get into the spirit, Ms. Gendron wore a princess costume and Ms. Wight donned angel wings and a masquerade ball mask over her eyes.

“This isn’t an easy time for anyone,” Ms. Gendron, who also works in the 0-7 Children Program at Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay. “We wanted to try to find ways to support the family as best we could.”

The innovative therapy session was just one way that staff in the Rehabilitation Directorate has pulled together to confront the enormous challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Others are doing their part as well, volunteering to work away from their regular sites to fill in where needs are greatest.

Some nurses and orderlies who normally work in LLMRC’s Rehabilitation Program in Specialized Schools – which are closed during the coronavirus outbreak — offered to be reassigned elsewhere. Occupational therapists and physiotherapists from the Constance-Lethbridge site came forward to work at the Catherine Booth and Richardson Hospitals.

The solidarity and team spirit were praised by Geneviève Chabot, Associate Director of Rehabilitation.

“Their tireless commitment and will to do more are the fundamental reasons why we work in the health and social services network,” she says.

“Ultimately, we’re helping assure the best quality of services to our population during this exceptional period.”

The therapists’ move was praised by managers as an example of “thinking outside the box” as the healthcare network is forced to adjust during the pandemic.

“Despite all the uncertainty, employees have shown a lot of resilience,” says Katerine Tremblay, Program Manager for the 0-7 Children Program at Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay. “They’ve made adjustments and brought a lot of innovative ideas to their jobs. And they’re putting a lot of energy into supporting families.”

From a 4-year-old girl drinking make-believe tea, to countless clients across our CIUSSS sites, that commitment has made a difference.