ANKENY, Iowa — The field of hand therapy is growing as patients with everything from a broken finger to carpal tunnel syndrome look for ways to improve function and deal with pain.
Hand therapy is a specialty of occupational therapy, which helps patients perform daily tasks like typing, writing, and holding items. One hand therapist helped a young man get back to his normal life.
You don’t really notice anything unusual about Kennedy Folkedahl until you look at his wrist.
“A lot of people are like, ‘what happened to your wrist?’ I usually tell them a crazy story, like a shark bit it off or something,” he said.
He accidentally cut off his left hand while working a construction job in northeast Iowa two years ago.
“Somehow I instinctively, I had a long sleeve shirt on, obviously. I took that off and kind of made my own tourniquet, and then I honestly sat down and said a prayer and then told the kid I was working with to put my hand on ice.”
Surgeons at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, reattached the hand. Three months later, Folkedahl went to the Unity Point Hand Therapy Clinic.
Occupational therapist and certified hand therapist Traci Newman said, “When he first came to see me it was starting to move, and he was working hard, but he didn’t have sensation in his hand. The fingers just weren’t doing a whole lot.”
Folkedahl worked with Newman three times a week for nine months while he was a sophomore at Grandview University.
“By the time he left me, he was typing reports, he was lifting weights, he was back at the gym. He went back to work over the summer and did landscaping activities and outdoor work,” said Newman.
Newman said the need for occupational therapists is growing, especially for certified hand therapists who work with patients with a variety of injuries.
“We have a growing population, and we’re a very independent-minded population, so as we get older, occupation therapy is really important to help those people maintain independence and continuing with daily life,” she said.
Folkedahl is glad he was able to return to his daily life, as he gets ready to start his senior year of college.
“I type papers every day, I use my hand to life weights, stuff like that. I’d say my quality of life is just about the same.”
April is Occupational Therapy Month. This marks 100 years occupational therapy has been an occupation.