MONTROSE—(June 4, 2013) Some people always seem to be in the right place, at the right time. Susan Scranton of Ridgway has made a lifetime of it. Born a twin, she and her sister—now a P.E. teacher–share a lifelong love of sports; Susan is now an occupational and hand therapist with In Motion Therapy (611 East Star Court) of Montrose. It was on a ski trip to Vermont years ago, the New Jersey native—who was working at a trauma hospital– just happened to meet her future husband Brian, also a native of the garden state. And it was a vacation to Colorado together that inspired the Scrantons to pack up and move to the Western Slope in search of a new life.
“We came for a ski trip to Telluride,” Scranton recalled, “and six weeks later, we moved. We’re so glad to be here!”
Eight years after relocating, Susan is in the hottest of careers, in one of the most exciting locations. As Montrose positions itself to be the community where wounded warriors can come to heal and take part in world-class recreational opportunities, retirees are also flocking to the region for its climate and quality of life. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for occupational therapists is expected to increase by 33 percent between 2010 and 2020. Occupational therapists treat patients with injuries, illness or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities, according to the BLS web site, which also predicts that, “Occupational therapy will continue to be an important part of treatment for people with various illnesses and disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy, autism, or the loss of a limb.”
“I’ve always been into sports,” Scranton said, “and in high school I had a friend who hurt her knee. I went to therapy with her. I ended up getting into occupational therapy because I liked it more, and eventually into hand therapy.”
To become a certified hand therapist, she not only had to attend classes—she had to work for a full four years under the supervision of In Motion Therapy owner Gary Krabbe, who is also certified in hand therapy. There are only a handful of certified on hand therapists on the Western Slope, and both Krabbe and Scranton are in high demand. According to the Hand Therapy Certification Commission, there are just 5,382 hand therapists in the United States, and only 5,676 worldwide. According to the American Hand Society web site, June 3-9 is Hand Therapy Week.
“I love it,” Scranton said of her work. “I started at Gary’s clinic in Delta County six years ago, and came to work here when Brian and I moved to Ridgway (from Hotchkiss).
“We work with people of all ages,” she said. “Some are post-surgical, but we also see a lot of people who want to avoid surgery. We see people with arthritis, and people with carpal tunnel. And of course, since this is the Western Slope, we see quite a few tendon injuries—farmers and miners get those.”
Making splints to keep the limb in the correct position for recovery is part of the job, and so is encouraging patients to seek help as soon as they notice a problem.
“We tell people, ‘come in the moment you have symptoms,’” Scranton said. “We get them in a splint, and show them what to avoid. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be reversed if it is caught right away—we can have you feeling better in a matter of weeks!”
Approximately 30 percent of the patients she sees are on Medicare, seeking treatment for “wear and tear.” Roughly 15 percent are seeking treatment for work-related injuries, and the rest are athletes and trauma victims.
Her own love of recreation continues to be a driving passion—and she continues to find herself in the right place at the right time. Earlier this year, while walking her dogs one morning, Susan noticed smoke coming from a quiet Ridgway home.
“There were no lights on, so I just banged on the door until they woke up,” she said. “The alarm hadn’t gone off, and there were were a mom and baby inside, both asleep.
“Now, we’re all friends.”