I sincerely hope you are all doing well and staying safe.
My how things can change in a short period of time. Since our last edition of this magazine, we finished our travel with State President, Tom Ludwick; we had a very successful annual meeting with our therapists; and last but not least, we had a very successful officer training.
On March 8, we welcomed 27 of our therapists to the Florida Elks Youth Camp for four days. It started Sunday evening with an incredible barbecue by Past State President Brian Burns and Mary Kay Burns along with Nancy and Alfred Higginbotham from Arcadia Lodge. A very special thank you is given to them from all the therapists for such a great evening. What a great way it was to start our annual meeting.
The next few days were filled with a lot of learning, sharing and fellowship. We topped the week off by saying farewell to Alice Smith, longtime secretary to Ben Brown and Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services (FECTS). Most recently she worked for the Florida State Elks Association. Alice was a very important part of our FECTS team for more than 30 years. She was so devoted to FECTS for such a long time and trained Deborah Hall so she could carry on and do an amazing job for all of us at FECTS.
An important part of our meeting is choosing our new CHAMP of the Year. After quite a bit of discussion, our therapists chose Emily Bulson from Hobe Sound. Emily is 16 years old and lives with her parents, Talitha and Merrill, along with an older sister, Alaina, and two younger brothers, Blake and Brett. The following is provided by Tina Morris, RPT.
“Before her diagnosis, Emily was an active teenager, participating in volleyball and yoga. Emily enjoyed going to the beach with her family and friends and attended traditional school. She was a talented vocal performer as well. In 2018, Emily started to have episodes of syncope and she was passing out up to eight times a day. The cardiologist diagnosed her with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), most easily described as when most of the blood stays in the lower part of the body when a person stands up, making the heart beat faster to try to get blood to the brain. The heart rate can go up by 30 beats or more a minute after standing up, thus causing an episode. In addition to POTS, Emily started to present with mysterious symptoms including joint pain and cognitive changes. Through multiple medical consultations, testing and endless appointments, Emily was diagnosed with Tick-Borne Disease, specifically Lyme Disease. Emily continued to have fevers and swelling and was given a course of antibiotics to quell the infection. Unfortunately, she had a severe reaction to the medication and lost the use of her arms and legs. Emily and her family remained hopeful that she would continue to recuperate and improve after she started to have the return of the use of her arms, but it continued to be a slow process. She was unable to access physical therapy services as the medical care became cost prohibitive. Emily’s pediatrician encouraged the family to apply for therapy services through Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services. Emily’s patient advocate through Martin Health System knew about FECTS and gave Emily’s family an application to submit.
“Emily was evaluated for physical therapy services through FECTS in February 2019. She showed deficits in strength and endurance, and she required total assistance for all movements into and out of her wheelchair. She was dependent on her family to assist her in all areas and was now homebound as she could not tolerate sitting up for any length of time. Emily was determined to do as much as she could physically handle. Through physical therapy services and the family support, Emily learned new strategies to increase her independence which in turn improved her emotional health. Emily’s father built parallel bars to be used with the physical therapist and the family to practice standing while attempting to take steps forward to walk. The rehabilitation process is long for Emily’s disease. Although walking is her ultimate goal, the physical therapist and the family agreed that a custom power wheelchair would be appropriate to facilitate more independence with Emily’s mobility skills. Emily received her custom power wheelchair Feb. 28, 2020, and is embracing the new wheels.
“Emily has a strong, supportive family and even though she struggles daily, she maintains optimism with a happy disposition. The weekly physical therapy sessions are always productive, even when Emily is having a ‘bad day.’”
Emily and her family will be joining us at the state convention.
On March 15, we returned home from a very successful officer training. It was a great weekend. We met many new officers and really enjoyed getting to meet them and discuss all the wonderful things we do as Elks.
The following week, it became necessary for everyone to work from home, and in an effort to continue working with patients while not putting our therapists or their patients who have a compromised immune system at risk, our therapists worked on programs for the children to do while the therapists are unable to go into their homes. By staying in touch with the
families and helping them during this time, we are hoping the patients won’t lose much ground. All patients will receive the 26 visits to which they are entitled. Since the therapists are not spending time on the road, it gives them extra time to take online continuing education classes. We are all working hard to make this very difficult situation work the best way we can.
We will all continue to pray that our country and all that we stand for heals and we can all return to whatever our new normal is. I am keeping you all in my prayers. Stay safe!
Colleen Gallant, Director
Florida Elks Children's Therapy Services