Written by Mirella Deisher, OTD, MS, OTR/L, CHT
Founder & Faculty
No one ever imagines that they would end up paralyzed, certainly not at 21 years old. But due to a ruptured brain aneurysm, that was the future I was confronted with. It took 3 months, but I was eventually able to walk a city block with a cane and leg brace. Every aspect of my daily life took every ounce of energy I had, not only physically but on all conceivable levels. The future I was told to expect was one of lifelong disability, and hearing that drove every decision I made from that point forward. I had the hemorrhage at the start of summer, brain surgery a week later, and by the end of August I would be discharged from inpatient rehab in time to start my senior year of college.
I then made one simple decision that changed the trajectory of my life. I decided to become an occupational therapist. I knew in choosing this career path, I had the opportunity to take this “weakness” and turn it into a strength. I could help people while also being able to help myself. With the knowledge I would have as a therapist I would be able to decide what my ultimate goals would be, and “plateaus” would have no consequence on achieving those goals. I’d keep striving for recovery, a year, 3 years, 15 years, and yes, even 28 years later; but without any disruption or compromise in any other aspect of my life, and also without my happiness being contingent on it.
I continued to move my life forward without compromise and I invested equal effort in my continued rehabilitation, as I did in continued study. While my physical strength continued to improve, I discovered I gained the most strength in knowledge; knowledge gained through continued formal education. Within a postgraduate program for upper quarter and hand rehabilitation, I gained insight into the depth and breadth of knowledge required to effectively function at one's full capacity within the specialty of hand therapy. Inspired toward continued professional development I later had the opportunity to complete a post professional doctoral program in occupational therapy that exposed to me to concepts of leadership.
I’ve been a certified hand therapist for 17 years and practicing within this specialty for 20 years. The impairments that remain haven’t had any consequence on the quality of my life, and I attribute that to the strength I found in knowledge. I learned early to pursue “continuous improvement” not only physically and professionally, but in every facet of my life. I still wanted an extraordinary life, and I learned it takes seeking knowledge and self-awareness to navigate whatever barrier that presents itself. What seemed like a catastrophic life event turned out to be blessing; and I am grateful because it allowed me to see the limitlessness that life can offer to each of us.
So how is this all related to the inspiration for Virtual Hand to Shoulder Institute?
It was motivated by just another barrier I wanted to remove, but this time for patients who don’t have access to specialized care, and for clinicians who aspire to transition into the specialty of hand therapy and don’t have access to a comprehensive, affordable, and accessible means to do it.
I don’t believe in barriers that are insurmountable. I only see a problem that needs to be solved. Which is why the core philosophy at VHSI is “continuous improvement”. As educators and clinicians we are always evaluating our effectiveness in helping you achieve your goals, and collaborating in a process that invites the opportunity for continuous improvement.