Occupational Therapy Plus Hard Work Helps Patient Use Her Hand Again


At 61 years old, Laurie Sonneborn was wary about common yet deadly ailments, such as cancer or a heart attack. As she puts it, a stroke was not on her radar. “It wasn’t anything I anticipated,” recalled Laurie, thinking back to her stroke in 2016. The incident left her devastated and overwhelmed, as well as dealing with the loss of functionality in her left hand.  

After her initial treatment in the emergency room and neurointensive care unit, Laurie was soon referred to the University of Utah Health Sugar House Therapy Services Clinic to begin occupational therapy. She was anxious from the loss of functionality in her hand, and originally nervous to endure the therapy treatments. “You really don’t realize how much you rely on both of your hands working in concert until they are no longer capable of doing so,” Laurie lamented.

Now, after nearly two and a half years of therapy treatments, Laurie’s outlook has completely changed for the better. “I look forward to comingat first I was terrified, but now I wouldn’t miss a treatment for the world, because it’s an opportunity to heal.”

Laurie explained that the treatments have given her more functionality than she had expected. “I couldn’t lift my hand or arm one inch off bed.” However, now she can assist in folding clothes, doing the dishes, making the bed, and more. Although she won’t get one hundred percent of her hand’s functionality back, she is excited to have already exceeded what doctors had originally thought possible.

When asked about the U of U Health providers helping with her journey, Laurie began radiating with gratitude. “They are outstanding and extraordinary in every way, especially Annie [Wallace], my fabulous occupational therapist,” exclaimed Laurie, a smile beginning to spread across her face.

“I have to do the hard work, but I wouldn’t know what work to do without her,” insisted Laurie, as she began to explain how Annie’s guidance has helped her.

“She has been a true godsend, a gift into my life and into my heart.”

Throughout her journey in occupational therapy, Laurie has stuck to a motto, borrowed from her sister: I am healthy, I am strong, and I am healing to the max.  She continued to emphasize that everyone’s “max” is different, but that she tries to heal to her max every single day.

“You have to be realistic and at peace with healing,” she related. “It begins with baby steps.” Ultimately, she explained that all of these baby steps would turn into a giant leap. “If you look back two and a half years ago, I have made some giant leaps in baby step increments,” declared Laurie. “With Annie’s help and my own hard work, I’ve gotten my hand back.”

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