ARLINGTON, Texas — Some might say Jose Velasquez is unlucky, after an accident with a circular saw severed four tendons in his hand and shaved off part of the carpal bone.
But Velasquez, 26, a mechanical engineer and avid violinist, sees it differently, thanks to Kelli Bryant, manager of Occupational and Speech Therapy at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital and Velasquez’s therapist.
Jose Velasquez performs a stretching exercise with his therapist, Kelli Bryant.
“Thanks to Kelli for getting me where I am right now,” he said shortly after playing in his first concert since the accident. “It was a miracle.”
Velasquez’s ordeal began in April when he walked past his brother-in-law, who was using a circular saw.
“It kicked back on him and caught my hand,” said Velasquez, who had just been married a week earlier. “I went to the emergency room, and they said I had cut four tendons on the top of my hand, the ones for my ring finger, middle finger and index finger. It also shaved off part of the carpal bone and moved the bones around.”
Velasquez had surgery four days later and began seeing Bryant right away. His dream, he told her, was to be able to play violin again.
“I’ve been playing for about 16 years,” he explained. “I started in fifth grade through a school program. I originally planned to major in music, but after my first year in college, I switched to engineering.”
Although he doesn’t play professionally, Velasquez is part of the Northeast Orchestra, an all-volunteer community ensemble based in Hurst.
Bryant was concerned when she first saw his injury.
“I didn’t tell him, but I wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to play again,” she said. “He was in a splint the first two months, and I was worried that he’d built up too much scar tissue to get full mobility.”
The two began with basic motor skills and Velasquez progressed steadily.
“He’s such a hard worker,” Bryant said. “He was really dedicated to his rehab, and always did his home programs. And he had such a sweet, positive attitude from the first visit to the last. He was an absolute delight to work with.”
Bryant used Baltimore Therapeutic Equipment, a machine that has a large set of attachments to replicate hundreds of activities, such as turning a key or squeezing pliers.
“We also did a lot of extra stretching because his fingers need to reach farther to play certain chords,” Bryant said. “I’ve worked with other musicians in the past, so I knew the kinds of things he needed to be able to do. But toward the end, I had him bring in his violin, and made different splints to facilitate the muscles he needed to play.”
Mary Meza, director of Rehab Services at the hospital, said she’s seen Bryant work miracles before.
“We’re so lucky to have one of only three certified hand therapists in Arlington, and the only one who doesn’t work for a specific practice,” Meza said. “Her patients have excellent outcomes, and she receives referrals from throughout the Metroplex. Kelli serves as a mentor to our other occupational therapists, who provide quality care to less complicated hand patients as well as for many other upper extremity orthopedic and neurologic diagnoses.”
After six months of therapy, Velasquez showed his appreciation — and his progress — by playing a private concert for Rehab Services therapists.
“I’m very, very happy,” he said of his return to music. “Everyone who has seen this injury has said they’re surprised at how well I’ve recovered and how fast it was. It was delightful to be able to play again.”
About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is a faith-based, nonprofit health system that cares for more patients in North Texas than any other provider. With a service area that consists of 16 counties and more than 7 million people, the system is committed to providing quality, coordinated care through its Texas Health Physicians Group and 29 hospital locations under the banners of Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Texas Health Harris Methodist and Texas Health Huguley. Texas Health access points and services, ranging from acute-care hospitals and trauma centers to outpatient facilities and home health and preventive services, provide the full continuum of care for all stages of life. The system has more than 4,100 licensed hospital beds, 6,400 physicians with active staff privileges and more than 26,000 employees. For more information about Texas Health, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit www.TexasHealth.org.