Missy Hymel’s nurturing spirit is evident in everything she does. Whether visiting her children’s schools, cheering at the ballpark or worshipping at her church, Hymel makes people feel at ease.
Nowhere is this more evident than at her clinic, Accelerated Hand Solutions, where she treats traumatic and complex hand injuries including amputations, fractures, tendon injuries, burns and wound care. After more than a dozen years’ experience treating patients on the Northshore, Hymel has moved her practice to an expanded, free-standing clinic in Covington.
“We have seen a substantial increase in hand injuries since I started in the field 28 years ago. Increased activity—whether it be from seniors who have become more active or from children who are now participating in highly competitive, year-round sports programs—has impacted our practice,” Hymel said. “There is also a growing awareness of hand therapists in general, and their ability to understand and manage the complexities of hand injuries in particular.”
Hymel is a licensed occupational therapist-registered and a certified hand therapist. Certification requirements, according to the American Society of Hand Therapists, include three years of clinical practice and at least 4,000 hours of direct treatment for hand and upper extremity disorders. Certified hand therapists must also regularly pass a rigorous certification exam to demonstrate their competence in the practice of hand therapy.
As someone who experienced a traumatic hand injury herself, Hymel understands that restoring function to one’s hand can be a long and arduous journey. She believes that understanding and compassion are as important to a patient’s success as strengthening and flexibility exercises.
“You don’t know how dependent you are on your hands until you can’t use them anymore. Patients experience a combination of frustration, fear, pain and joy as they make progress. It is important to us that we tailor individual ther
apy sessions based on the patient’s emotion that is the strongest on that particular day. We start by providing comfort through heat or massage and progress from there,” she said.
Having a solid rehabilitation program in place allows Hymel and her team to adapt sessions based on how patients are handling therapy and reacting to pain. The plan is based on the injury itself, the patient’s goals and the therapist’s expectations. It includes a realistic time frame for progression based on clinical therapy as well as adherence to an at-home regimen.
“There is a misperception that therapy is painful,” she said. “The adage, ‘no pain, no gain’ is not accurate when it comes our patients. We focus on soothing the pain, not pushing through it. We don’t want them to dread appointments. Ultimately, the more they look forward to therapy, the better their outcomes will be.”
In addition to pain management techniques such as heat treatments, instrumented assisted massaging, ultrasound and scar management, the clinic offers rehabilitation exercises and equipment to treat patients. From high-touch sensitivity re-education to the high tech BTE Simulator II that accelerates strength training, the therapists and technicians utilize a variety of tools to help restore function.
In-house capabilities also include custom and pre-fabricated splints. This is critical in emergency situations where physicians may be reluctant to stabilize using hard casts. The clinic can often accommodate emergency patients as soon as the physician order is complete, with customized splints completed within one hour.
While much of her time is spent encouraging her patients, Hymel makes sure her employees are taken care of as well. She takes her responsibility as a business owner seriously, offering health insurance and retirement accounts—benefits almost unheard of for a business with only six employees. She also fosters an environment that puts family first, allowing flexibility with scheduling so team members can attend important events in their children’s lives.
“One of the reasons I started my own therapy business in 2005 was because I wanted the opportunity to be more involved with my children, Jordan and Jared who were five and four years old at the time. Now that they are in high school and on the verge of college, I am so grateful for the time I’ve had with them. It means a lot to be able to provide that same opportunity to my own employees,” she said.
The Accelerated Hand Solutions’ team includes a second hand therapist, Stephanie Accardo, who has been with Hymel since being mentored by her seven years ago. They are assisted by therapy technicians Adam Cookmeyer and Alexa Kestler. Office manager Mireya Barkley and administrative assistant Jenna Corkern have managed the daily operations of the clinic.
“Having a group of experienced, loyal professionals has allowed me to focus on the behind-the-scenes business administrative responsibilities and treat complex post-operative cases with the confidence that Stephanie is fully capable of handling all the clinical responsibilities.”
Hymel said that her staff may be responsible for putting her vision in action, her husband Stephen is who helps make her vision a reality. “He is the glue to everything. Whether it was selling his truck to help with the initial down payme
nt for the clinic or rearranging his schedule to help with the kids, he is always there to pick up slack when I needed it,” she said. “As we enter the next phase of the clinic and move to an expanded location, I am most thankful for the hand that has held mine for the last 24 years.”