Patient Story

Norma’s story: Moving again thanks to occupational therapy

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Photography is a passion of Norma Clark-Vance, but a broken right index finger made it hard to focus on her favorite hobby. 

“I wasn’t happy about the finger fracture because one of my life’s passions is amateur photography, which I couldn’t do because I couldn’t pick up the 9-pound long-lens camera for many months,” Norma, 73, of Sugar Hill, said. 

Two days after her fall, Norma went to urgent care and then to Dr. Torrance Laury of Northside Hospital Orthopedic Institute (NHOI) – Sports Medicine. Dr. Laury diagnosed her with the broken finger and referred Norma to hand therapy at Northside Hospital Forsyth

Norma also saw NHOI's Dr. Stephen Fisher as she needed surgery on her long finger for a trigger finger release, and received hand therapy for this diagnosis as well.

Certified hand therapists Latha Balakrishnan and Payton Griner helped Norma with her recovery through occupational therapy after her fracture and then after her surgery. In the beginning, Norma had limited movement and needed therapy twice a week.

“Occupational therapy gave me tools to improve, but they were very gentle and caring and always tried to avoid any pain,” Norma said. “They taught me a lot about how my hand and fingers function, which made my journey interesting and more outward-focused."

“I would say, ‘This is never going to be right,’ and they would be very positive and explain the healing process, which really helped. I never felt like a patient coming into cold, practical therapy. They were both always friendly and encouraging.”

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants provide care to help patients of all ages — neonatal to geriatric — participate in daily living. Care is focused on interventions of everyday life to promote independence; restoration of function and health; and return to work, play or school.

At Northside Hospital, occupational therapy clinicians work in the Intensive Care Unit, Special Care Nursery, orthopedics, neurologic unit, pulmonary unit, medical/surgical unit, cardiology, outpatient rehabilitation and inpatient rehabilitation.

More than 100 occupational therapists and certified occupational therapy assistants are members of the health care team at Northside and are recognized during Occupational Therapy Month in April.

Norma said that before she met Balakrishnan and Griner, the problems with her fingers meant she couldn’t perform basic tasks like opening jars or brushing her teeth.

“My family time was impacted too, and we had a lot going on during that time,” she said. “They really helped me through my recovery.”

Since starting occupational therapy, Norma reclaimed full mobility in her right index finger and later regained the normal use of her trigger finger release. In March 2024, she was able to resume outdoor photography.

In April, Balakrishnan discharged Norma to a plan of home exercises. She’ll continue to work on managing her scar tissue and wear a splint at night.

Norma said her health seems back to normal now that she is back to normal activities and not thinking about her hand or finger regularly.

She said her experience with Northside “has been very positive, from the front office staff to the clinical staff. Everyone is friendly and intentional about helping.” 

Learn about rehabilitation services at Northside. 


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