Listen to 'This Is Why'
As a child in the '80s and a teenager in the '90s, I suppose it was inevitable that extreme sports would become a major part of my life. Skateboarding, snowboarding, and gymnastics-I loved them all. And, as most athletes find out sooner or later, I learned that when you go hard, sometimes you get hurt. By the time I graduated from high school I was more than casually acquainted with local physical therapists (PTs). Surgeries to repair a Bankart lesion and a tibial plateau avulsion fracture had my parents running circles to drop me off at all of my rehab appointments.
Life is all about movement. Those early injuries taught me how horrible it feels to be unable to move your body as you desire. Helping others overcome injury and get back to optimal movement was destined to define my career path.
Once I became a PT, I made my way to Oregon-aka the adventure sports mecca. With mountains to climb, waves to surf, and temperate weather to keep you outdoors all year long, it's the place to be if you live to move.
Drilling deep on any specialty wasn't atop my to-do list at first. There simply was too much fun to be had. I bounced among practice settings in those early years, getting a feel for our profession's many facets.
Although I wasn't concerned with climbing any ladders-corporate, managerial, or otherwise-my eyes always were open to the environment around me. How could I best help people achieve optimal physical function?
In 2009, I made the leap to entrepreneurship and cofounded Beyond the Clinic, an outpatient physical therapy house calls service. My partners-Aaron Saari, PT, and Bryan Pasternak, PT-and I had worked together at a hospital-based clinic and had identified a gap in care that needed to be filled. Senior citizens, in particular, seemed to have a hard time making it to their outpatient appointments.
One client's quality of life improved so profoundly that I often reflect on his story. He was in his late 70s and was living alone in a community for older adults. He'd experienced a series of falls over the previous few months. His neighbors, fearing for his safety, had advised him to stop taking his daily constitutional, lest he sustain a hip fracture or other injury while outdoors.
When he and I got together for the first time he was despondent. He loved, and dearly missed, his daily walks through the local green space. The fresh air, sounds of nature, and simple pleasure of navigating the park were essential to his health and happiness.
I worked with him on basic leg strengthening and balance training, advised him to use Nordic poles when outside the house, and showed him how to do so properly and optimally. His enthusiasm did the rest of the job, and he was back to his daily routine within a matter of weeks.
The smile returned to his face. He began telling everyone in the neighborhood about the amazing turnaround he had experienced thanks to physical therapy. At a community meeting, someone who was there told me, he stood up, and with tears of gratitude and pride streaming down his face, told an audience of his peers that each and every one of them should consider adopting an exercise and balance routine.
To this day, whenever he and I cross paths he takes my hand in a 2-palmed embrace and thanks me for helping him return to an activity he loves.
The satisfaction and joy that our patients and clients derive from achieving their mobility and fitness goals are priceless to me. Each day I'm reminded of what PTs contribute to society. By helping people move better, we increase the net amount of happiness in the world.
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