Profile in Caring: Emily Potter, OTR
“We don’t always have a choice in what happens to us in life, but we always have a choice in how we handle the situations that arise. My job is to provide the education and resources my patients need to be able to move forward and live life to the fullest.” The words of Emily Potter, OTR, embody the spirit of the physicians, therapists, nurses and other professionals who provide rehabilitative care with a goal of community integration at TIRR Memorial Hermann.
“I love helping people at a challenging time in their lives when they most need help,” - Emily Potter, OTR
In 2001, Potter had just begun work on a degree in education at The University of Texas at Austin when she sustained a T11 spinal cord injury (SCI) in an automobile accident, paralyzing her from the waist down. “I was just starting to get an idea of what I wanted to do with my life,” she remembers. “I’d moved out of my parent’s home and was beginning to gain my independence. Suddenly I found myself dependent again."
Potter demos a car transfer and discusses driving abilities with patients.
During her therapy sessions, she also discovered an interest in occupational therapy that led to a career change. Following two inpatient admissions at TIRR Memorial Hermann, she enrolled in the combined Bachelor of Healthcare Sciences/Master of Occupational Therapy program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, graduating with honors in May 2008. After graduation she moved to Houston to accept a position at TIRR Memorial Hermann. Today, she’s a member of the evening therapy team and serves as a mentor and clinical educator to OT students and the Spinal Cord Injury Program team in the areas of bowel/bladder management, sexuality, psychological adjustment following SCI, adaptive driving and the use of adaptive tools and techniques to perform the activities of daily living.
“I love helping people at a challenging time in their lives when they most need help,” she says. “I’m called on to show patients how I transfer in and out of my wheelchair or in and out of my car and break down my wheelchair. If people love to cook, I teach them new ways to work in the kitchen. I tell them that what took me an hour to do in the early days after my injury now takes two minutes. These sessions are particularly rewarding to me. I learn something from my patients every day, especially how much strength people can find within themselves in very, very difficult situations. I’m always astounded by the capacity of the human spirit.”