Thank You, Occupational Therapy
August 22, 2022
by Leah Mary
The first time I heard about occupational therapy was during my Freshman Year (2016) in my seminar class with Dr. Jesús Díaz. One of our classes was dedicated to introducing us to occupational therapy. At the time, I was volunteering in different research labs studying the brain and thought I wanted to get my PhD in Neuroscience. I didn’t want to pursue occupational therapy (I know, what was I thinking!?).
Fast forward to the end of my Sophomore Year, I was pretty unhappy. While I found the research fascinating, something was missing. Most of the time, I was behind the computer, not interacting with individuals (and I’m a huge extrovert). I felt utterly lost. This was around the same time my grandmother was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer that impacted her overall well-being, requiring multiple brain surgeries and significant therapies.
My grandmother had a PhD in education, was a biology teacher, and my best friend. I was devastated seeing such an incredible person go through something so terrible. But my grandmother was determined and motivated to stay strong and healthy as long as possible. That summer, she went to inpatient and outpatient therapy at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. This was the second introduction I had to OT, however, this time in its most authentic form. I witnessed how OT positivity impacted her life. The therapist used meaningful occupations to motivate and connect with my grandma (she loved OT the most). And because the therapy was embedded into her daily life, she could continue at home when discharged. OT changed her life.
Right then, I knew that pursuing a career in OT was my calling. I loved the therapist’s interactions with their clients, the creativity involved in incorporating meaningful occupations, and their impact on people’s lives.
Fast forward again to now. I just completed my last II fieldwork at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (on the same floor my grandmother was on) and graduated from the Entry Level Master Program. OT changed my life. It’s weird, but every time I engage in fieldwork or OT courses at school, I feel connected to her, so thank you OT.