Each month, PT in Motion magazine features "Defining Moment," a place for PTs to tell stories of the times in their lives when their commitment to the physical therapy profession was deepened or laid out in stark relief in ways that helped them truly appreciate the career they chose. "Defining Moment" is a reminder that inspiration can come from surprising places, including from what some find to be the most surprising place of all—ourselves.
But don't take our word for it. Take theirs. Here are some of the best quotes from the 11 "Defining Moment" columns we've published this year.
"Existing in a flood of terrible injuries, rather than isolated hard cases that might have given me an opportunity to be self-reflective, I viewed my job only as stressful and difficult. But, there on my hands and knees, meditatively scrubbing Christa's floor, I realized that I actually was part of something much larger than myself. For better or for worse, I was a part of a team of people who literally were getting service members with crippling injuries back on their feet again."
-Adele Levine, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, on how helping a friend (and fellow health care provider) caused her to see her career in a new light.
"While I'd always known that PTs play an important role in the lives of patients and clients, what I came to realize is that our place in their hearts and lives is even bigger than that. Billie Jean King titled one of her books Pressure is a Privilege. Well, I believe that physical therapy, whatever its pressures might be, is a privilege, as well—for its practitioners. We are privileged that, every day, people invite us into their lives on a deeply personal level, entrusting us to help lead and guide them down what may be a long and difficult road to recovery and restored function."
-Melissa Baudo Marchetti, PT, DPT, SCS, MTC, describes how undergoing abdominal surgery and making her way through recovery created a new appreciation for the physical therapy profession.
"Did I know for sure that he ever would walk again—or even be able to stand up on his own, for that matter? No. Could I tell him with certainty that he was going to 'beat this thing'? I couldn't. But I could see that, at that moment in his life, what Eric needed most was a ray of hope that his quality of life could improve.
Eric was silent for what felt to me like an eternity. But finally, he looked directly into my eyes and nodded affirmatively.
It was on."
-Aaron Keil, PT, DPT, OCS, looks at how a patient's determination-fueled transformation enriched Keil's personal and professional life.
"Character is revealed in life's most difficult circumstances. I've learned from years of being a PT that people gain strength when faced with great challenges. Nearly every PT and PTA has seen remarkable courage in patients—bravery that sometimes hardly seems possible. Witnessing it tends to strengthen our own courage and gives us insights into how we best can serve others. I know that my experience working with so many incredibly resilient people is helping me face my disease with a resolve that I likely would lack otherwise."
Nancy Johnson, PT, diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, tells the story of how her profession and her patients have prepared her to meet the challenge of her life.
"My mother is one of the toughest, most positive-thinking, most inspiring people I know. I saw from an early age how physical therapy helped her meet her movement goals, so, when people ask me why I became a physical therapist, she always is part of my answer. She made me want to earn my license and become 'one of the good ones,' as she puts it."
Jacquie McAdam, PT, MPT, whose mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at an early age, on the power of family, and the ways seeing physical therapy as a child influenced her adult life.
"Those 3 days of tests—visual, written, and psychological—resulted in my narrowing my career choice to either social work or physical therapy. I frankly didn't know much about either profession. So, back to the hospital I went, where I volunteered to help out in the physical therapy department on Saturdays.
It didn't take many Saturdays until I was hooked. I decided that I, too, wanted to be a physical therapist. What I saw at that hospital was a group of caring individuals using their expertise and compassion to help restore function, and to bring hope, to people who had lost mobility."
Faith Goldman, PT, describes her gratefulness to family members and mentors who guided her toward a career she loves.
"On a physical level, I lost part of my face. On a psychological and emotional level, I lost my self-identify as someone who required no assistance in activities of daily living. I now can readily and viscerally identify with patients whose independence has been lost, temporarily or permanently, in a way that I could not before my accident. I have gained perspective and empathy that will make me a better PTA and a better person."
Marc Duyck, PTA, MEd, whose recovery from severe injuries sustained in a bicycling accident led to a new outlook on his profession.
"In her letter to me, the student's mother movingly described how the custom chair I'd built had made an immediate and profound difference in her daughter's life. When I put down the letter, there were tears in my eyes—and I am not a big crier. At that moment, I decided I had to find a way to use my design and construction skills to reach more students."
Michael Kionstalid, PT, DPT, on the inspiration he discovered when he combined his love of furniture-making with his love of pediatric physical therapy, resulting in the Universally Designed and Adapted Classroom Program.
"Love. Joy. Encouragement.
More words stream through my mind. His dad and I step off the device. The treadmill and the timers start. Alec begins stepping, acknowledging his own intent image in the full-view mirror. I feel certain that he'll beat his own distance record, because that's what he does, continually. His dad, Alec's amazing coach, shouts words of support and encouragement. 'You're doing great!' 'Those are perfect steps!' 'Pick up the pace. Don't let the treadmill get ahead of you!' I step back and watch in awe as Team Alec—father and son—power ahead, relentlessly toward the finish line."
Karen Gage Bensley, PT, DPT, MS, PCS, draws a renewed sense of appreciation for her profession from the loving relationship of a father and son.
"This work is my calling. Every patient's case is different; nothing is rote. The field holds tremendous opportunities for creativity and customized therapy. The potential always is there to help people who have suffered a devastating injury make dramatic improvements in their quality of life.
If all that weren't enough to wake me with a smile and an itch each morning, the close relationships we forge in the clinic allow me to be part of my patients' lives for many years. They, in turn, become an important part of my life. I'm honored to call many of them friends. And then, of course, there's the former patient I call partner."
Polly Swingle, PT, GCS, CEEAA, RYI, tells the story of how a special patient showed her what perseverance is all about, and wound up being her business partner to establish clinics that encourage that sense of determination among individuals with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.
"A big goal emerged 6 weeks after he and I started working together. That was when he uttered those 6 aspirational yet defiant words: 'I wish I could run again.' At the time, we were working on gait training without use of a cane. Even that was a challenge, given Mike's ataxia and frequent falls. But he wanted to run. He wouldn't be satisfied until his goal was achieved.
Nor would I. Now that I knew this was Mike's next mountain to climb, I had no other option, as his PT, than to be his guide as we climbed together toward the summit."
Stacey Lane, PT, DPT, NCS, recounts how her patient's drive and commitment to physical therapy helped him make a dramatic recovery from a severe hemorrhagic stroke at age 18—and how that determination inspires her commitment to the profession.
This article is a part of APTA's "Profession in Transformation" series. Check it out!