“There’s no typical day. I can be seeing someone who had brain cancer, or a stroke, or a concussion. People’s conditions have very different impacts on their lives. It’s my job to help them identify their needs, and then help them build themselves back up.”
Kathy Wong has been an Occupational Therapist at GF Strong since 1983. She started there when it was originally servicing pediatric cases and played an integral role in growing it into what it is today— the province’s largest rehabilitation centre.
Kathy is kind, knowledgeable and highly empathetic. She beams with an infectious smile as she speaks about the people from all walks of life that she helps, everyone from teens to adults. And she remains inspired after nearly four decades of supporting thousands of clients—each with their own unique journey to recovery.
Helping rebuild you
Kathy starts her day off riding her bike to GF Strong for her 8:30 a.m. shift. She meets up with her colleagues in the basement—typically Speech Pathologist Chelsea Leigh, Physical Therapist Cat Chan, and another Occupational Therapist, Katie Griffin.
“It’s so great having a morning chat where we check in and see how we’re all doing,” says Kathy. “We may be in the basement but we have such a great nurturing atmosphere down there.”
On Tuesdays, Kathy will have ‘rounds’ for an hour and a half. This is where she checks in on patients with her colleagues to see how everyone is progressing. Afterwards, they’ll typically interview a new client. This could be in-person or via Zoom, as clients come from around the province and even occasionally from the Yukon.
Then in the afternoon the rehabilitation programs start. The health care team at GF Strong is comprised of an interdisciplinary team of experts working together to solve the nuances and complexities unique to each person.
“I work with patients to uncover what condition they’re living with and also ask, what is their goal? How has whatever they are living with disrupted their lives, and how can I bring it back for them?” says Kathy.
In the case of a concussion patient, it could be teaching them about pain management. How to deal with lights, noise, or focus issues. For someone recovering from a stroke, it could be learning how to eat, walk, stand, sit: basic human functions which can be impacted by injury and disease.
Every day, Kathy loves making a real and impactful difference in people’s lives. Watching people go through their toughest moments, and then witnessing them realize they can find a new path forward provides her with so much joy.
And above all, she does it with a team she loves.
“There’s an old Vancouver Coastal Health saying, ‘Came for the job. Stayed for the people,’ and that’s exactly what my experience has been,” says Kathy. “GF Strong is a big institution, but it’s filled with wonderful friendliness and amazing people doing amazing work.”