• This Is Why

    Fun and Games

    The joys of finding one's niche.

    Podcast: Listen to 'This Is Why' 

    No one is more excited about my being in physical therapist (PT) school than my mother, a pediatric PT. When I said I was going back to school for my DPT, she was excited: she could pick my brain about everything I was being taught!

    My mom works for a school district in my home state of New Hampshire. When I was young, I loved helping her prepare. Because I liked to draw, she'd recruit me to illustrate flashcards with instructions like "walk on all fours like a bear," "hop from lily pad to lily pad like a frog," or "slither on your stomach like a snake." During dinner, we'd brainstorm games she could play to accomplish goals for certain children.

    And the catalogs! They were filled with pictures of swinging platforms, elaborate climbing structures, trampolines, and colorfully lit tube tanks the height of a room and full of streaming bubbles. When she couldn't find what she wanted, we'd go down to the basement. She'd cut into the thick tri-wall cardboard she'd collected to make a foot-support bench to put under a desk, or a tray to fit to a child's wheelchair. At other times, she'd pull out her sewing machine and spend hours creating beanbags and weighted vests full of BBs. She always was in the midst of some project or another. Her work as a PT seemed so creative-and so fun.

    Those childhood memories came back to me during my first year of PT school. I was assisting in the hospital's inpatient pediatric department, spending most of my time there with children who have cystic fibrosis-helping with "chest" (cardiovascular/pulmonary) physical therapy and breathing exercises, and making sure they got physical exercise. One morning the patient was Evie, an energetic, adorable 3-year-old. My task was to take her and her pull-toy dog, Stella, on a stroll around the hospital.

    True to my childhood memories, Evie and I decided to hop like frogs-all the way down the hall and along the passage to the children's hospital. Evie loved it-trying to hop a little farther than I could, but always making sure Stella was keeping up. We hopped high to reach the buttons that opened the doors, and carefully to avoid the lines between the floor tiles.

    Back in her room for her mechanical vest treatment, Evie was still giggling as she told her parents about our adventure, and still beaming throughout her lung-shaking percussion treatment. She would remain at the hospital for the next several days, but seeing how happy and comfortable she was, I knew that I was in the right career. Besides expertise, physical therapy requires creativity, enthusiasm, and heart. Having watched my mom demonstrate those qualities for so many years, I felt proud that I might have them myself.

    My professors have a little joke. They prod us by saying, "If you don't learn this material, how will you be able to help people? Didn't every single one of you say on your application that you want to be a PT because you just love to help people?" Well, they're right, of course. All PT students look forward to the chance to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us. As for me, though, at least part of why I want to be a PT is because I still really like to draw pictures, walk on all fours like a bear, and jump like a frog.