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'A Letter To My PT'

Vol. 15 •Issue 22 • Page 40
'A Letter To My PT'

Patients describe the 'tough love' and sometimes miraculous help they received from therapy

To celebrate October as PT Month, we invited patients from across the country from varied rehab centers to write a letter to their physical therapists, their PTAs or their entire therapy teams to express their gratutide for the help they received and their optimism on what PT has done for them. One credits her PT for challenging her during recovery following shoulder surgery—and reminding her to get back to fitness. Another patient recalls the pain he constantly felt prior to receiving PT—and how therapy revitalized his life with his family. One mother champions PTs for their efforts at getting her daughter's life and function back after she had a stroke. The patients' thoughts are inspiring—and a reminder that therapy is often much more than physical.

Letter to Ruth Gomez, DrPH, PT
Progressive Physical Therapy in Tarzana, CA

Dear Ruth,

You are my hero. When my husband had knee replacement surgery four years ago and came to your clinic for physical therapy, you noticed how I was slumping in my chair as I waited for him. You said, "I'll bet your back and neck hurts when you leave here," and you gave me a bolster to strap on the back of a chair. It worked like a charm, so we both joined your wellness program.

Then I developed tendonitis with secondary dislocations in both of my thumbs, and had thumb surgery. Your physical therapy expertise helped me to rapidly improve my strength and regain range of motion.

Last year, you "saved the day" once again, when you helped me recover from breast cancer surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation. With your skills as a certified lymphedema specialist, you kept me as physically fit as I could be, carefully supervising my workout and warning me about the risks of certain kinds of exercise.

I'm now addicted to your wellness program; you may have been right when you said that I have the soul of a gym rat! I've lost 25 pounds, quite a bit for someone who's only 4'11." I'm in better shape now than ever before, and finally able to keep up with my 5-year-old goddaughter. I will forever sing your praises!

Andrea Morrison, MD
Pediatric Neurology

Letter to Ronel Kleinloog, PT
Clemson Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation,
Clemson, SC

Dear Ronel,

The thing that has changed most about being pain free for the first time in 17 years is the way I come home from work. Before you led me through physical therapy, I would sneak in the back door and sit in a chair quickly, lest I be hurt. Now I enter the door and invite trouble. And pretty soon, they come. Two little boys with boundless energy yell "Daddy's home!" and charge me with the full weight of their enthusiasm. The first one to me is lifted into the air. The second one grabs me around the waist and wraps his feet around my legs. Sometimes I fall and then a wrestling match sets in. It's a wonderful way to end a workday.

I've had surgery, steroid injections and, of course, drugs. Everything helped, but none of it left me feeling whole. Neither my wife nor my children had ever known me without some degree of pain. My oldest son, age 5, once brought me a Band-Aid for my "boo-boo." You and physical therapy have given me something precious: A chance to lift those little boys for many more years. I'll never forget you for it.

Ross Norton

Letter to Ruth Gomez, DrPH, PT

Progressive Physical Therapy, Tarzana, CA

Dear Ruth,

When I had arthroscopic surgery on my shoulder for a torn rotator cuff in November 2003, no one had told me how long it would take to recover fully. But coming to your clinic turned out to be the best decision I could have made to facilitate my recovery.

As soon as I called your clinic to make my first appointment, I was impressed with your friendly staff, and when I came in to make sure I liked your facility, I immediately felt comfortable and knew I had made the right choice.

You started me on exercises that were always challenging and never extended me too much. With your good sense of humor you were able to get me to relax, and with your ability to read people so well, you were able to coach and reassure me when I was having self-doubts about my ability to ever lift my arm normally again.

It took about four months of twice-weekly therapy for me to regain full range of motion, and now my shoulder is in better shape than my "healthy" one. I grew so comfortable at your clinic that I joined your wellness program because I knew I would never be allowed to do something that would hurt me. And I'm never bored because you and your staff always give me new ways to challenge myself.

As someone who hadn't been in a gym in years and had just done a little walking for exercise, I am happy to say that your program has given me a whole new awareness of my body. I've learned that weight training is extremely important for a woman my age, and that if I don't make an effort to keep my muscles strong around the bones, I'll wake up every day aching and complaining. I know I have to keep working harder as time goes by, but I also know that I feel really good after a workout at your gym–especially after my favorite routine of hurling the 8 pound ball at the trampoline! Oh, how I love doing that now!

Thank you for all your encouragement and most of all, for your incredible mind and spirit.

Barbara Kolakowski

Letter concerning Jeff Kertscher, PT
Medical College of Georgia Health

System in Augusta, GA


My daughter, Amber, started coming to the Medical College of Georgia Health System in December 2003. She was 16, and had had two strokes that doctors say was caused by a bacterial infection of the brain. The first stroke affected her right side and the other stroke left her in a coma.

When she woke up, she wasn't able to sit alone and had to be strapped in a wheelchair. She had no control and couldn't stand, she wasn't able to turn or dress herself, and she couldn't even write or speak. All this from a girl who before this happened was planning to enter the Miss Teen South Carolina contest.

After we started working with Jeff, I saw gradual progress at first, but then there was more and more. Now 17, Amber can write with help, she can dress herself, turn over, and even get into a wheelchair by herself. She can walk a little with the help of a walker and about a month ago for the first time since this all happened, she called me, "Mommy." She said, "Mommy, I love you."

I can see that she's better, but when someone can tell you she's getting better, that makes all the difference. Jeff is a godsend—I think he's an angel. When Amber was in a coma, I prayed that someone who loves their job would help take care of her. That's Jeff—it emanates from him. He has such concern for Amber, but also for me and my family. That's what impresses me so much. He tells me, "It's going to be OK, she's doing good, I see progress." He's treating her physical body, but his confidence and encouragement affect me spiritually.

He's kind and gentle, but stern—he doesn't give in and goes beyond when Amber is upset or tired and does his job to help make her better—that's what I like. He soothes and praises and encourages her to continue and is helpful and compassionate.

There are days that I come in and feel the world is on my shoulders and I don't know what to do, and Jeff and the other therapists and staff here who help us are so friendly, it makes me feel that everything is going to be OK. It's love, you can feel it here. Thank you, to Jeff and to all the other therapists and staff, who work with Amber.

Katherine Simpkins, Amber's mom

Letter concerning Betsy Jordan:
Moss Rehabilitation,
Philadelphia, PA

I am writing you this letter to commend a member of your staff, Betsy Jordan, PT, for an exceptional job on the road to recovery, when it looked like I would never be able to return to work. She went above and beyond what I believed a physical therapist would do for a patient.

Her kindness, care and motivation were the determining factors that enabled me to return to work on Aug. 22, 2004–sooner than anyone could have expected. My wife Theresa and daughter Tori are grateful for her commitment to me, enabling me to get back to being myself as I was before the accident happened on Dec. 20, 2003. My days at Moss Rehab, although difficult, will not be forgotten because of my physical therapist, Betsy.

Raymond Plymouth

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been totally amazed and impressed with the quality of care my father has received here at Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation. The entire staff has always been friendly and helpful. They never appeared to be bothered by any request my father made. There were always smiles for me when I came in to visit him.

I know the staff works hard and yet they always had time to look up and smile. They never babied my father, they were never calloused to his needs and they never offered false hopes. The staff's realistic, cheerful manner in which they go about their duties, I believe, is very helpful and healing to patients and their families. Once again, thank you all!

Letter to Joan Gillon, PT
Linn County Physical Therapy, Cedar Rapids, IA

Dear Joan,

Thank you for being such a pain in my knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows, back and neck for all of these years. Over the years you've helped me to keep mobile as arthritis continually ate away at my joints. We've spent years fighting each other and it's because of the battles with you that I am as strong and independent as I am today.

We've been through a lot together. I was so young and you were new to the profession. It was because of you I had to continually come up with new excuses not to do my assigned exercises. In fact I rarely did them as instructed, which you know because I took such pride in my defiance of your authority. You, in turn, learned every trick in the book and I do feel sorry for your young patients today and in the future—you'll be one step ahead of most of them.

When I think back, I do recall the good old days. I'd run off and you would chase me down. You'd bribe me with a cookie or some type of chocolate candy to encourage my participation in the various activities. I'd yell "child abuse" and a doctor would poke his head in to investigate. Oh yes, these were the fun times and we had so many.

You know I was given the option of working with .different physical therapists on many occasions over the years, but they just weren't as much fun as you were. They didn't seem to understand how things worked. Most were so serious and down to business that it was almost more painful than the actual therapy.

I never liked going to physical therapy, but always understood its benefits. Is all the pain really worth it in the end? Yes. After all, I met you.

Myra Markley

To the staff and management of Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation (Dallas, TX):

Thank you—we all appreciate you so much for the loving care you have given my brother. You can tell how much love you all have for your jobs by the attitudes you display. I only wish I loved my job that much!

It makes it so much easier to leave him knowing the kind of loving care he is getting. Words can't explain how me and my family appreciate everything you have done for my brother. We never dreamed he would be so far along at this point in time. But with lots of prayers and with the loving and professional care from you wonderful people here at Baylor, he is doing fantastic. We love and appreciate you all so much.

Thanks again.

To the Rehabilitation Staff of Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, Wheaton, IL:

On October 18, 2000, I was at work, standing in the hallway, chatting with a co-worker. She looked away briefly and when she turned back, I was on the floor.

Paramedics were called to the scene and I was rushed to the hospital. My husband, John, and our daughters were called to the hospital. A CAT scan indicated I had suffered an aneurysm. The doctor recommended a visit from the chaplain to administer last rites. I was only 51 years old.

After emergency brain surgery and a nearly two-month stay in the ICU, I was transferred to Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital. At Marianjoy, my days were filled with therapy to help me become an independent person again. With the help of Marianjoy's wonderful therapists, I began re-learning the skills we all take for granted.

Annette, my physical therapist, helped me to learn to sit up straight in my wheelchair, and put me in the parallel bars so I could practice standing and to regain my balance and strength.

When I finally returned home in April 2001, I felt terrified, but have learned this is normal. Mary, my physical therapist for day rehabilitation, continued to work with me on sitting up straight. She brought in a mirror so I could see when I was tipping over. Soon, my brain learned what was center, and I could remain in a sitting position.

My daughter was getting married in October, and I was determined to walk down the aisle. Mary coached me on the parallel bars and helped me learn to walk with a cane, and eventually without the cane.

I thank my PTs and OTs at Marianjoy for over a year of hard work. I did walk down the aisle for my daughter's wedding. And I stood, a little embarrassed, at the reception as my friends and family gave me a standing ovation.

The aneurysm changed my life. I am so grateful for the .therapists at Marianjoy who have helped me become as near to the person I was.

Sharon Giometti

To the staff and management of Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation (Dallas, TX):

"Today I completed my PT program. Thank you so much for your work with me. You started me perfectly and continued to listen to my needs. It got a little less structured toward the end, so the foundation you provided me is vital to the rest of my life—all except tossing balls on the trampoline. I think it will be a long while until I do that again, despite the fun I had. If you ever need a good word, I only have praises for you. Thanks!"

To the Rehabilitation Staff of Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, Wheaton, IL:

I recently spent 11 days at your rehabilitation center, from June 25 to July 7, 2004. I was recovering from right hip replacement surgery.

Your facilities are modern, up-to-date, well equipped, and staffed with the best physical therapists and occupational therapists I have met. They were all caring, knowledgeable and firm. My stay was a pleasant and useful experience, thanks to your people.

I would like to thank, in particular, Yvonne, Kim and Martha from the occupational rehab area, and certainly Julia Schaeffer from the physical rehab area, for making my body work again. She was firm and insistent, and pushed me a little more each day to recovery. I am still following her instructions! Again, my thanks to your organization and your great staff of people.

Victor S. Fachet


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