Seniorlink Blog

The Power of Physical Therapy: A Story for World PT Day

Today is World Physical Therapy Day. PT is a key component of caring for elders and people with disabilities — in fact, this year’s theme, “Adding life to years” is meant to raise awareness of the fact that “physical therapists help older people be independent, improving their quality of life and reducing health care costs,” according to the World Confederation for Physical Therapy.

To celebrate physical therapy, today we’re sharing a story from Christy Traywick, a Physical Therapist who now works as an Area Director with Caregiver Homes. It’s one of the moments that made her “fall in love with her profession.” Here’s the story in her words:

Right out of PT school, I had the pleasure of working with a sixty-year-old man who had become paraplegic after two spinal cord injuries (SCIs), one thoracic and one lumbar. The second of these two injuries had occurred when he was thirty, and left him able to pivot from his wheelchair to another chair or bed, but unable to fully stand or walk.  He had also lost all bilateral lower extremity sensation after the accident.  There was little change in his condition for the next 30 years, so you can imagine his surprise when one day he thought he could feel the sock he was putting on!

This new sensation in his feet led him to the inpatient rehab hospital where I was working.  He received an order for PT and OT from his physician to maximize his mobility and increase his function, if possible.  He couldn’t contain his excitement!  Together, with the Occupational Therapist, we tried everything to get him on his feet again. He spent hours stretching, using the standing frame, and working with us in the pool.

The patient was willing to work hard and he never wanted to stop.  He began to make progress. After about 3 weeks, he was able to stand for five minutes in the parallel bars. We celebrated his success, but stayed focused and moved on to his next goal.  After six highly demanding weeks of inpatient rehab, he was able to walk 50 feet with forearm crutches!

Around this time I was in the process of moving to a smaller town about 90 miles away, and often talked about the transition with this patient.  He had a brother that lived in the same small town, so he was very familiar with the area and was quick to offer his thoughts on the area’s best restaurants.  Shortly after the day he made his 50-foot walk, I made my move, no longer seeing the patient. He pressed on, however, working hard and making progress.  

Three months later, I had a visitor page me at my new office.  I walked out and I saw an amazing sight: it was my former patient, walking toward me!  Proud of his amazing progress, he had driven all the way to surprise me.

That day I fell in love with my profession.

Thank you to Christy for sharing her story, and thank you to all the PTs around the world who help make such a difference in the lives of their patients! 


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