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Flashback to 1995. I made a great hit off a low slow pitch, and as I headed to first, BAM! My right leg fell out from underneath me; I hobbled in excruciating pain the rest of the way to base. I later learned I pulled, possibly tore the major set of muscles in my thigh, including the groin. The doctor told me PT was my best bet to recover the strength and flexibility while healing. In my first PT appointment, they put me on a treadmill to walk. Um, how will that help? I wondered, but I didn’t ask, I just did what I was told. After fifteen minutes, I’m then asked to do another ten, only this time, walk backwards, at a really slow pace. Say what? Again, I did what I was told. I never asked and they never volunteered the info to me. My physical therapy lasted three sessions, and I considered it a waste of time. So upon arriving at PT for my observation, I admit I had skepticism. Some folks with developmental disabilities can’t walk, I thought to myself, what will they do since they can’t do the treadmill?
Meet Jim, my first PT client observation who works with Ryan Kizer, a physical therapist in our comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facility (CORF). Jim lives in one of four handicapped-accessible rental homes sitting on the periphery of and owned by Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC). I first see Jim slowly moving himself into the physical therapy area in his wheelchair using one hand and his feet. As I watch him, I am reminded how I take for granted my own mobility, agility, and ability to do so much. I’m generally a grateful person, but since starting at WFC, that gratitude has deepened daily for all that I have and am physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As in Jim’s case, it can all be taken away from you in an instant.
At the young age of 34, Jim suffered a broken neck and severe head trauma in a car accident while living in San Francisco. His injuries left him in a coma for two days. Jim’s head injury and its resulting effect can be seen in his face and cranial area; you can also hear its impact on his speech which is understandable with great effort on Jim’s part, but slurred. From the hospital he moved into a rehabilitation facility for six months where he received physical, occupational and speech therapy. He returned to Kentucky in 1984 but had no therapy since his return. Jim moved into his Campus home three and a half years ago, and began physical therapy in June 2011. By the time I arrive to observe in January 2012, he’s been in PT for approximately six months. Upon introductions, Ryan explains who I am and why I’m there, and Jim graciously agrees to my observation of his PT sessions. Jim appears as a mild-mannered man, with a dry sense of humor evident during his therapy.
Jim’s therapy differs drastically from my own personal experience; but then I didn’t have the same physical challenges to overcome as Jim does. In hindsight, I realize what a cry-baby I was when I had my leg injury. Yes, it hurt terribly and I hobbled for a few days, but it was a big deal because I made it a big deal, when in fact, it was simply an inconvenience, temporary at that. With Jim’s blessing, I will watch Ryan put him through a physical ringer of a PT workout over several sessions as they work together towards Jim’s physical goals. And no treadmills were involved.
Upon starting PT with Ryan, Jim hadn’t walked with a walker in twenty-eight years; therefore, his legs were weakened. In addition to strengthening muscles, Jim wants to easily transfer himself from his wheelchair to a couch, bed or toilet. His head injury also impacted his perceptual awareness of his body and balance, creating challenges in his efforts to stand and walk. These are a few of the issues Jim and Ryan began addressing upon starting PT twice a week last June.
I soon will learn how amazing the human body is, how determined the soul can be, and how powerful physical therapy is as a treatment in overcoming physical challenges.
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