Feeding yourself. Getting dressed. Combing your hair.
Those activities are simple and don’t require much effort, for most of us.
For those who have suffered a stroke, been injured in a car accident, or who have had a brain injury, the simplest, most mundane task can be challenging, if not impossible.
That’s when occupational therapist Cesar Cespedes, clinical supervisor at Valley Baptist Medical Center’s Outpatient Rehab, steps in.
“The job of occupational therapy is all about helping others recover from a debilitating injury,” he said. “We help individuals get back to the job of life.”
Cespedes, 37, is a 1995 graduate of Harlingen High School South. He has been an occupational therapist at VBMS since 2000.
In January, he was appointed to the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, after doing volunteer work for the organization for 2 1/2 years. That work involved creation of a computer simulation program for recertification of occupational therapists and certified occupational therapy assistants.
After having completed that project, he was asked to join the board.
“That was exciting,” he said. “That was probably one of the most exciting times of my life.”
As an occupational therapist, he works with a broad range of people with varied needs: those who have had hip or knee replacements; burn victims; those with hand injuries; and amputees.
“I think the joy that you get out of being an occupational therapist is all about the end result — seeing that there is an ability to get back to doing the things you were doing before,” he said.
One of the big challenges for Cespedes is dealing with the constant changes in Medicare and insurance regulations.
But perhaps the biggest challenge is keeping himself emotionally detached.
“There are times that you work with individuals that you have empathy for,” he said. “And that empathy that you have, sometimes you have to learn to separate.”
When he first became an occupational therapist, he became attached to every patient.
“If they weren’t succeeding, I was feeling the same hurt they were feeling themselves,” he said. “After 14 years, you learn to separate yourself from the patient.”