I am a little more than halfway through: The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter's Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete. In case you missed my last post, Matt is a marathon runner & ironman, who gets hit by a truck and impaled by his bike post, breaks multiple bones, and destroys his entire abdominal cavity. The book chronicles his recovery & return to endurance sports.
I knew this would have an impact on me as a runner.
I never thought it would have such a huge impact on me professionally as a rehab physical therapist.
Even though I specialize in strokes and brain injuries, I love me a good multi-trauma. As weird as it sounds, when someone like Matt is on the list to come in, I get excited. Not excited that they injured themselves so badly that they need my help, but excited to work with interesting problems, troubleshoot through the tough stuff, and help someone get back to living.
Reading about Matt's struggles with his therapists, reminded me of struggles I go through with my patients regularly.
It's hard to see the progress
Embarrassment and frustration at their current status
I'm the person that can't care if you're tired or it hurts. I'm the person that tells you it's time to get off your ass and go for a walk even though you haven't in 8 weeks. I'm the one that pushes you to do what you think you can't, all so I can help you get back to your life.
There have been plenty of times when I cried after one of my patients walked for the first time, or climbed a flight of stairs. I cry especially when the ones I've really pushed to get where they are, have progressed enough to get home.
My job in many ways is so satisfying. Working with a patient like Matt (even though he does give his therapists a hard time), makes my job worthwhile.
A few years ago, I had a 21 year old guy fall asleep at the wheel and hit a tree. He showed me pictures of the car, I was surprised he lived. He broke his pelvis, his arm, his leg. He was only allowed to use 1 arm. He stayed at the hospital for almost 2 months. The day he was allowed to use his legs & walk, I cried. The day he was able to use his arm to try a break dancing move the biggest smile was on his face. A year later he auditioned for So you think you can Dance, and made it to the Vegas round. He told me he made sure the cameras knew how awesome his physical therapist was. so. worth. it.
It makes me think about training. There will always be times when we feel too tired, too much pain, or not good enough. Having someone to tell you that you can, and push you to succeed makes all the difference.