Body Mind Soul

 In Health Matters, OBX Community

Damaged parts? We all have gathered a few as living life propels us forward. As the ironic coincidence of the Universe would have it, right before my interview for this article with Outer Banks occupational therapist Mickey Calhoun, I sustained a nasty injury to my right shoulder and arm. So fortunate to have been linked to a skilled professional in my time of need. I found “Mr. Mickey,” the “Mr. Fix-It” for my rehabilitation.

Michael D. (Mickey) Calhoun is the owner and Occupational Therapist at Island Hand and Upper Body Rehabilitation in Kitty Hawk. A talented, professional specialist is just what the doctor ordered (cliche intended). The skilled and qualified “Mr. Mickey” has been rehabilitating patients since 1994, specializing in the upper body, arms, and hands.

As a sole practitioner, Calhoun elaborates his professional philosophy: “I try to treat patients as I would want to be treated, as a patient. I’ve tried to inform patients as I would want to be informed, as a patient, and I have been a patient. I’ve had three shoulder surgeries, I’ve had multiple orthopedic conditions, and I’ve been on the other side. I follow the golden rule. I treat patients how I want to be treated.”

The comfort of Mr. Mickey’s patients is of his primary importance to ease their stress and pain in the traumatic situation through which they’re working.

I try to pick out a commonality with the patients that I can discuss and have a meaningful conversation in an effort to distract them from what I’m doing, which might be painful. I really try to get them involved in the therapeutic process and everything that goes with that.

Relating to the patient empathetically is one of Calhoun’s many talents. He might even take his guitar in hand and sing to you.

This is called “therapeutic use of self” in the Occupational Therapy Industry, feeding the body and the mind and the soul. Visiting “Mr. Mickey’s” clinic reveals it to be calm, not hectic. Being a sole proprietor Occupational Therapy practitioner, more than likely, when a patient calls, they will speak directly to Calhoun to fill their needs, make appointments, or ask questions. Sometimes the “staff” may increase by a student, but generally, you’ll speak to the boss.

Healing the body is also the realm of the Physical Therapist. Occupational therapists include healing the mind and soul to prepare the patient to function in the real world after a traumatic injury. Stroke, arthritis, nerves, muscles, all of the numerous, various afflictions that can compromise this fantastic body we live in, and potential depression from the resulting life changes fall to the OT to help rectify. OTs, such as Mickey Calhoun, teach us to navigate the world again once they’ve helped us return to physical, mental, and emotional prowess. Occupational therapy relates to the patient in more of a holistic methodology. 

“Cognitive issues develop along with the physical injuries of the patients,” relates Calhoun. “And I think OTs have an advantage in dealing with cognitive issues, like visual perceptual changes and memory. For instance, a patient’s functional routine as a stroke patient who’s lost the use of an arm. We must retrain you how to function with one arm, not two. You must adapt your dressing, your bathing, and your eating, your cooking, and cleaning.” All daily functions must be relearned, as well as new training with assistive devices. The patients’ objectives are always “how am I going to live again?” and “how can I safely navigate my world without fear, apprehension, and anxiety?” It is Calhoun’s job to make those patients’ objectives a reality. He estimates most patients average two to three months in occupational therapy.

At times Mr. Mickey’s practice addresses the category of pediatrics as an entire field of occupational therapy encompassing developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, autism, and others. Calhoun has empathy formulated in his early years. 

He explains, “When I was a child back in the 1970s, I went to a school that started mainstreaming individuals with disabilities. The school I went to was purposely built for that reason and was built with no barriers, no doors, no stairs. So they took the kids without disabilities and gave them jobs or activities to do with the children with disabilities. And I had two jobs during my elementary career. One was working to help the therapists in the clinic when they would do therapy on the kids during the school day. And then later, one was helping load and unload the kids with disabilities off the buses. I got to know them. I got to know everybody really well. And it kind of helped me develop an understanding and a non-discriminatory approach or a viewpoint with individuals with disabilities. I enjoyed it, I enjoyed helping people, and that sparked my interest.” He further elaborated, “Later on, I was in the Marine Corps, where I got injured and had to go through some intensive therapy for my shoulders. My response was that this would be a great job to have when I get out. I got the GI Bill, and here we are.” Mr. Mickey laughed. The detonation of an occupational therapist was ignited.

Calhoun then connected the dots to the Outer Banks for me. “I would come down here and work in the summers, and I developed a good group of friends. After college, and after having a job in South Carolina, the opportunity opened up to work here at Brookhaven, which was the nursing home, way back when. Then I did that in-home health. And then my career just kind of evolved into where I’m at now. I worked with Coastal Rehab for almost nine years. Then I went out on my own.” 

In Mickey Calhoun’s frame of reference, his practice at Island Hand and Upper Body Rehabilitation is more orthopedically inclined with the upper body. Both Physical Therapists (PTs) and Occupational Therapists (OTs) work on shoulders, the hands, and the spine. In his opinion, “Probably more OTs specialize in hands, as I do, and PTs are probably more shoulders and spine. PTs are definitely larger muscle groups, legs, knees, and hips. Overlap occurs with the upper body, the shoulder, the elbow. OTs get a lot more training on the hands. And also OTs fabricate splints and orthotics for the hands and upper body.”

Another thing Calhoun is sensitive to and addresses with patients is paying for his services. He relates it best, “I try to be as fair and equal as possible with what people can afford. I try never to turn anybody away, as best I can. My advantage is being an independent practitioner and not in a huge clinic with a lot of administrators. I’ve got a degree of freedom on what I can do with patients that might have difficulty paying their bills or having no insurance.” Usually, something can be worked out.

Mr. Mickey Calhoun, Occupational Therapist, impressed me with his knowledge, scope of work, philosophy, and enthusiasm. There are many good therapy choices to improve our Coastal Life here in the Outer Banks, and Mickey Calhoun is a fine one. Choose wisely.

Contact Information

Mickey Calhoun OTR/L
Cell: 252-202-4238 Office: 252-255-5252
Island Hand and Upper Body Rehabilitation
3210 N Croatan Hwy Suite 3, 2nd floor, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948

Emily Moliken
Author: Emily Moliken

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