"Frustrating disability": The lived experience of coping with the rehabilitation phase following flexor tendon surgery

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Fitzpatrick, Niall ; Finlay, Linda (2010)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being (issn: 1748-2631, eissn: 1748-2631)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/qhw.v3i3.4983

Challenging rehabilitation regimes following flexor tendon surgery require patients to complete an hourly exercise regime and wear a thermoplastic splint constantly for four to six weeks. Building on earlier research by the first author the data from his interviews of five peoples' experiences and meanings of their rehabilitation was re-analysed using a phenomenological lifeworld approach. The individuals were found to cope in different ways and degrees with the frustration of disability. Three themes*"struggling-adapting", "retreating-battling" and "denying-accepting"*capture something of the ambivalence of their experience. The findings also provide insight into how flexor tendon injury, and subsequent surgery and rehabilitation, impact on individuals' lifeworlds. Damage wreaked on daily life comes as a surprise. In different ways, they are all challenged to come to terms with the shock of pain, disability and the double trauma of surgery and rehabilitation. The challenge also involves an emotional and social struggle as personal relationships are disrupted. Three types of phenomenological analyses*narrative, lifeworld and thematic*are presented as iterative, deepening elaborations. Together they offer a more holistic, if still tentative, picture highlighting the relevance of attending to peoples' personal, social and practical responses beyond simply focusing in reductionist ways on physical function. Key words: Disability, existential issues, hand surgery, lived experience, phenomenological analysis, rehabilitation.
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