Published on July 07, 2015

Hand Therapy Restores Consultant's Ability to Use Sign Language

Judy Gipson, 45, receives hand therapy from Genesis to restore full range of motion

Judy Gipson Signing

Gipson signs with one of her students, Kaitlynn. Gipson has
worked as a sign language educator for 23 years.

Judy Gipson is great with her hands. As flawlessly as a black belt performs an uppercut, Gipson performs sign. But after a fall last October that fractured her right wrist, the sign language educator and consultant found it difficult to do what she loves most.

Gipson, a married mother of two from Davenport, takes high school graduation photos in her spare time. She was working with a former student when she experienced her tumble.

“We were next to the iWireless Center, and close to the industrial structures there was a buckled sidewalk,” she said. “I tripped over that sidewalk and broke my fall with my wrist.”

Gipson was taken to the emergency room at Genesis Medical Center, East Campus in Davenport.

Plates and Screws Are What Make the Wrist Go Round

Judy's Wrist Post Surgery

An x-ray taken after a plate and four screws were
surgically placed in Gipson's right wrist. Gipson says
her wrist is sometimes stiff but not painful.

Not to Gipson’s surprise, her wrist was fractured and needed surgery. An orthopedic surgeon would end up placing a plate and four screws. All the while the patient became concerned about her ability to sign.

“I had to be able to sign,” Gipson said. “My livelihood is sign language. I know there are one-armed deaf people out there, but I need my hands and wrists.”

Her surgeon was confident she would be able to resume signing if her wrist healed properly. But for that to happen, she would need physical rehabilitation.

“When I was asked whose therapy I wanted to use, I immediately said Genesis. I’ve always been with Genesis since day one,” Gipson said.

Being hard of hearing herself, Gipson was inspired to help the deaf and hard of hearing at a young age.

“My eighth grade teacher gave me that light bulb moment of ‘Oh, this is what I am supposed to do. I’m supposed to study, I’m supposed to understand this,’” she said. “It was then that I decided I wanted to be a teacher to the deaf.”

Gipson has worked as a sign language educator for 23 years. She is currently a consultant through Mississippi Bend AEA, educating others on how to sign while directly managing a handful of interpreters across the QCA.

“It’s all about the kids—about interacting with the kids and helping them,” she said.

Getting the Upper Hand with Certified Hand Therapy

Only days after her surgery Gipson began physical rehab at the Genesis Lombard Clinic in Davenport. While nervous about the process, she knew it would be necessary so her wrist could heal properly.

She worked with Kari Wiese, an occupational therapist and one of Genesis’ four certified hand therapists. Wiese’s job was to help Gipson recover her strength and full range of motion. Certified hand therapy, Wiese says, is the way to do it.

“Hand therapy is the orthopedic rehabilitation of the hand, wrist or elbow following accident, injury, illness or trauma. It can be from a single finger injury to a gunshot wound. We cover a lot.”

Wiese added that Genesis is unique in the way it delivers care and because it has 10 percent of Iowa's certified hand therapists.

“Genesis is really lucky to have one-on-one care for each patient at every appointment,” Wiese said. “At other clinics you might have two patients at the same time, which means your time is split. Judy and I were able to work through a lot of things that could have been really difficult without that one-on-one care.”

Wiese made another fact very clear: sometimes a patient might not receive physical rehabilitation following an injury. Hypothetically speaking, Gipson could have gone without any sort of therapy.

“By coming to therapy, you’re restoring your function faster, eliminating pain sooner, and just getting past the finish line quicker,” Wiese said. “And some people never push themselves enough, which means you end up with limited strength, motion and function.”

Luckily for Gipson, she was more than happy to push herself past that finish line. While going to see Wiese was often strenuous and tiring for her wrist, she actually enjoyed her appointments because of the friendship that was quickly growing between the two.

“Kari and I just hit it off. We were like two peas in a pod,” Gipson said.

And for Wiese the friendship was certainly mutual.

“Judy was motivated, compliant, and she made therapy fun for the both of us. She came in and was just willing to do anything,” Wiese said.

Hope for the Future

Sign of Hope

Gipson gave Wiese this parting gift after graduating
from therapy. The hands spell out "hope", which Wiese stated
is her life verse.

Gipson graduated from physical rehabilitation after eight weeks of comprehensive care. Although her wrist is not like it was before she experienced her injury, she's more than able to sign again.

Now, when asked about her fracture and the rehabilitation process, she mostly recalls fond memories with her friend and therapist Kari.

“Kari hurt me sometimes just because she’s mean and she’s awful!” Gipson joked. “I hated her for several things that she made me do. But she’s a good OT, and that’s what she’s supposed to do.”

Gipson once asked her therapist for a life verse—a word or phrase that could wholly describe her outlook on life. At the time Wiese was dumbfounded and had no idea how to answer the question. But eventually, she came up with her answer:

“Hope,” she told Gipson. “I hope that my kids are raised well, just as I hope your wrist gets better.

-Tyler Mitchell, Genesis

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