CUH physiotherapist Bríd O’Donoghue says that when she first met patient Richard Murray, who is now a wheelchair user following a spinal injury, she was aware of the long rehab road ahead for him but was blown away by his resilience.

“From day one, he was really positive about the whole thing. He has an amazing outlook and mentality. He’s really inspirational.” 

 Richard attended physiotherapy daily in the gym at CUH. There, he worked on his transfers (getting from wheelchair to bed using a board), strength and cardiovascular fitness.

“Richard worked really hard in the gym to achieve his rehab goals while also educating the physio team about Formula 1 racing (a big interest of his.) It’s only natural to have ups and downs or good and bad days after your injury and along the way on your rehab journey. Some people can be nervous of the changes to their body and how that will affect them in the future. A person’s impairments depend on the level of their spinal injury. 

"The higher up the injury, the less function a person has. Richard’s injury meant he did not have power in his legs.”

 Part of Bríd’s job as a physiotherapist in a hospital is to help patients to become as independent as possible, given their injury. “Sometimes, that is not always possible. We aim to make arrangements to support the patient, no matter what the circumstances. We see a huge variety of patients in the hospital.” 

CUH hospital staff work closely with the patients and the other disciplines in the hospital to help people achieve their goals.
CUH hospital staff work closely with the patients and the other disciplines in the hospital to help people achieve their goals.

 Physiotherapists are goal-oriented, says Bríd. “We decide with the patient what their goals are. It’s really important that what we’re working on is important to the person. It might be something like being able to go from their living room to the toilet. That might only be five metres but for people who are not yet doing that, it’s a huge goal for them. We work closely with the patients and the other disciplines in the hospital to help people achieve their goals.

“Goal setting is an excellent way to keep focus on progress after a traumatic injury. This is applicable to all of our patients in CUH but also those who have suffered injuries in the community such as sports injuries or falls. We educate and encourage patients to continue setting goals beyond their hospital stay and into their future.” 

 One of Richard’s goals was to be able to get down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend. Thanks to his determination and physiotherapy, he was able to achieve this romantic gesture safely.

Involving patients’ families is invaluable to physiotherapy treatment. “Richard’s fiancée, Gráinne, is amazing. She came in for physiotherapy sessions. She was there when we were showing Richard how to do car transfers. Richard could transfer into her car and they’d be able to go for a drive together.” 

 The support of family and friends throughout a person’s rehabilitation journey is paramount, says Bríd. This may be through social outings, phone calls, encouragement or even joining them for their rehab sessions. It can really motivate and inspire people to continue on an already difficult journey.

Richard spent about three months at CUH before he went to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire. Richard is now at home and attends a private gym to exercise. At home, he uses a device called a standing frame.

“It’s a mechanical device that brings a person up to a standing position. The benefits of being upright for spinal patients include improving their bone health, breathing system, blood pressure and bowel and bladder function.” 

Bríd O'Donoghue, acting senior physiotherapist in neurology, CUH.
Bríd O'Donoghue, acting senior physiotherapist in neurology, CUH.

 Bríd’s wellness advice for men is to keep fit by doing exercise that they enjoy or engage in sports. Getting out in the fresh air and doing exercise – “little and often” – during the week is important. The World Health Organisation recommends that men aged 18-64 should exercise for between 2.5 and 5 hours a week at a moderate level of intensity. 

Moderate intensity is when you feel slightly out of breath but you’re able to hold a conversation. Men aged 65 and over should exercise at the same level but should also include balance and strengthening exercises three times a week to maintain functional capacity and to prevent falls.

“If you have any concerns about exercising, please discuss it with your GP. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins which can give you a boost when you need it. If you struggle to exercise alone, it can be helpful to team up with a friend and exercise together or join a local walking group.

“Physiotherapists work with men across all ages. As we age, we lose muscle mass and bone density. Physiotherapy and exercise are proven to counteract this decline. Physiotherapists are well known for working with sports injuries and teams, but we also work with men in later life. If you notice an older relative who is slowing down with their walking or is having falls at home, it is important to link them in with their local physiotherapy service.”

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