Yesterday I danced with a patient in therapy. It started out as simply as great opportunity to work with a patient. I had finished with one and noticed the next patient on my list in the main room in the dance sponsored by activities. Great! I don't have to chase her down and it shouldn't be too difficult to get some movement out of her. What that time turned into was more than I had anticipated.
She agreed eagerly. As I knelt beside her to remove her foot pedals, she reached for my hand. "Did I ever tell you about the time that I danced with Fred Astaire?" Apparently she was a background dancer in one of his movies when she was a teenager. Her eyes shining, she took several minutes to tell me about the perfection that he expected and how much she learned from the experience. It was obvious how much she treasured that opportunity. As I reached for her hands, she stood up and eagerly started tapping her feet. I'll be brutally honest and say that both of my feet are left. It's true--I can't dance. That sad fact, however, doesn't stop me from trying and I was more than willing to make a fool of myself for the sake of... well... her, the experience, the therapy. It didn't matter that I have never been able to dance and that she is no longer able to fly about the room. (although she still has really good timing!)
She looked up at me, eyes gleaming. The only time her eyes left mine were to smile at other people. For a few minutes she was reconnected to the person she used to be and the life she used to have. I'm definitely no Fred Astaire, but dancing with me brought those memories to life. For that short time the reality of living in a nursing facility rolled back a bit and she was again doing something that she dearly loved. I don't have any idea how long it had been since she had danced.
I had no clue that the afternoon meant so much to her until today when I talked to the OT who treated her afterwards. Apparently that was all she talked about yesterday. Who knew the Hokie Pokie and a couple of slow dances could mean so much? These are the moments that make me internally shout, "I LOVE MY JOB!!!" Therapy that gives a person back their life.
And so we danced.