Avera Medical Minute: Getting back to daily activities through an occupational therapist

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - April is a month to recognize occupational therapists and the work they do. Lexi Weisbeck is building up her strength to learn how to do daily activities all over again.

"My symptoms were kind of just like congestion, just your normal flu-like symptoms basically for the first two weeks," Weisbeck said.

Then, it progressed to what felt like growing pains in her hips and legs.

"It went to a flaccid arm, and that was kind of my first sign. And then it just progressed," she said. "So it started on Monday and by Wednesday, I couldn't walk or anything."

She was diagnosed with Acute Flaccid Myelitis in September of last year. She spent ten days in the hospital and more than 60 days in inpatient rehab, where she did about three hours of therapy every day.

"Right away when I was in the hospital, we had to just kind of learn how to live in the wheelchair, how to get used to not being able to stand up and do your make up or stand up and do your hair and all that kind of stuff," Weisbeck said.

She works with her occupational therapist, Melissa Halseth, often, learning to do daily activities.

"If a person is unable to participate in those daily roles like they used to, our job as OT's are to focus on improving their upper body strength, coordination," Halseth said.

Weisbeck has been seeing Halseth since December.

"When I went into the hospital, my arm could only go up this high," Weisbeck said. "And now it can reach normal."

She's adjusting how to cook, clean, do laundry, or go to the grocery store.

"Just having to learn how to adapt to do them differently. Putting on your shirt is a completely different thing," she said "It took me 45 minutes to put on my shirt the first time."

"She came in with good hand coordination. For her, it was approximately, how do we strengthen her shoulders, her trunk, so that she can lean over and pick up something off of the ground?" Halseth said.

And she's made quite the progress since her AFM diagnosis in September.

"She just impresses me every time that she comes in," Halseth said. "Lexi is such a hard worker. She puts in 200% in the clinic, and there's nobody that works harder than her outside of it as well."

"A positive attitude can get you a long ways and just embrace the things that you have to go through. It's not easy," Weisbeck said.

But she's proving that fighting hard while staying positive can help you get back on your feet.

Lexi is graduating from the construction management program at South Dakota State University this spring. She was set to go to Hawaii in January for a construction job, but her diagnosis changed what was next. So she will now attend law school next year to give herself more recovery time. She still hasn't decided where that will be.