September 16, 2009
Methodist Specialty Care therapist named Region IV Caregiver of Year by Miss. Health Care Association
By Susan Christensen
At age 6, Brenda Thames saw firsthand the healing power of physical therapy.
Her disabled little brother learned to walk with the help of physical therapists, and Thames never forgot their kindness and concern.
“I think it’s why I do have compassion,” says Thames, a physical therapist for Methodist Specialty Care Center (MSCC) in Flowood. “I try to treat people like I would want my family treated.”
That approach has earned Thames the honor of being named Region IV Caregiver of the Year by the Mississippi Health Care Association, the state’s largest association for nursing homes, personal care homes and other long-term care facilities.
When a coworker broke the good news, the Terry resident says she was flabbergasted. “I was quite humbled. I didn’t do anything more than anyone else.”
But those who nominated her for the honor say she does go above and beyond – and always seems happy to help. “Brenda always puts her patients’ needs first,” says Warren Morton, a resident at MSCC. “In addition to her great dependability, she is unfailingly cheerful.”
“Her passion for the residents is found in her smile,” agrees Jan Robertson, vice president of long-term care at Methodist Rehabilitation Center. “She gives with her heart in addition to her hands. She is a listener and a friend to the staff and residents.”
During her more than 30 year career, Thames has worked at a variety of facilities – from hospitals and home health agencies to schools and outpatient clinics. But no setting has touched Thames quite like MSCC, a residential care facility for younger people with severe disabilities.
“This seemed like something I needed to be doing,’ she says. “Here you see some of the worst things that can happen to someone in the prime of their lives.”
Most residents are in wheelchairs due to traumatic injuries or disabling illnesses such as ALS, muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy. But in each resident’s struggle to remain independent, Thames sees a spirit that inspires her to help each maintain as much ability as possible. “I know if I was not doing what I’m doing, they might be worse off,” she says.
Morton says much of what Thames does falls outside the scope of her duties as a physical therapist – from combing his hair and cleaning his glasses to organizing and labeling personal items. “She always takes the extra time to help with small things that make a huge difference,” says his wife Irene.
“She has watered my plants, repaired my wheelchair cushion and my clothing, gone Christmas shopping for me and even taken items home and washed them for me,” says Margaret Parker, another center resident who nominated Thames for Caregiver of the Year. “She strengthened my faith in God because she is such a Christian woman.”
Thames says her ultimate goal is to improve the residents’ quality of life. And they in turn enrich her life. “My reward is their smiles,” she says. “It makes me happy when I can just cheer them up.”
Methodist Specialty Care Center physical therapist Brenda Thames enjoys the difference she can make for residents of Methodist Specialty Care Center in Flowood.
Brenda Thames of Terry, right, a physical therapist at Methodist Specialty Care Center in Flowood, works with center resident Margaret Parker, left, to help her maintain as much independence as possible. Parker was one of several residents who nominated Thames for the Mississippi Health Care Association’s Region IV Caregiver of the Year.