I work in The Katie Piper Foundation Rehabilitation Centre in Merseyside. The centre is residential and supports the survivors of burns after their acute NHS care is finished. Survivors come to stay with us, typically for one month and I see them every morning, working with them to improve their fitness and help ease the impact of their, often very severe, burns and scars.
When people first come into the centre we work with them to draw up a list of goals covering what they want to achieve during their time with us. We review these goals on a weekly basis, ensuring that each person receives the most appropriate support for them during their stay. Although everyone’s goals are different there are usually common themes that run through them. Often people have been in hospital for weeks and even months so improving their fitness is usually a priority. Many also want to concentrate on increasing freedom of movement in a particular area, often restricted due to tight scarring and skin grafts, overarching things such as improving confidence and increasing independence are always key goals.
There is a whole team here working on different aspects of rehabilitation. My role involves working to support survivors using physiotherapy. This encompasses a few different activities depending on their specific goals. I am usually with someone for a whole morning, I will start off working on their overall fitness and core strength, improving fitness is essential in the journey back to health. I might do some pilates with them or some circuits and balance work as well as exercises to improve their muscle tone and function. I help them to work out on our multi gym, this records their fitness levels so we can track their progress and they can see how the effort they are putting in is paying off. Often people have very specific goals, such as improving their balance in walking up and down the stairs and we will work on specific exercises for this.
For the second half of the morning I will work on more hands on physiotherapy, using massage to increase mobilisation and to improve specific areas. Sometimes people have back or neck problems caused by tight scarring and I will work to manipulate the area, easing out muscles and skin, just giving even a bit more flexibility can really help relieve painful areas. We also have some fantastic massage machines, these work like a vacuum to lift the skin, they help to ease the tightness of scars and improve the collagen in the skin which in turn improves the health of the skin, these are universally popular and everyone loves the impact they have on their scars.
It’s always amazing to me what a difference a month can make, survivors work so hard while they are with us and show such dedication in their recovery that the improvements to their physical health are usually significant. The centre really works to bring them out of themselves, they feel able to do things that they couldn’t before. But more than that, we understand the importance of empowering people during their stay, they leave us more confident and happier in themselves, but also able to continue their activities at home and therefore to maximise their recovery and to be more independent in their lives again. After the extreme trauma many of them have been through it’s great to be able to play a part in that.