One of my patients once asked me, “Do you really know how I feel? This pain?” Well at that time, my response was, “No, I don’t.” I’ve been lucky never to have suffered extreme physical pain in my life (some would say that mental and emotional pain trump physical) but pain can be so debilitating. Pain can affect your mood, and stop you from doing the things you love, like ice skating, rollerblading, dancing, and even running on a treadmill, or running in general.
A reason why I became a physical therapist is because I have a disability myself. I have flat feet and painful posterior tibial tendon syndrome. I also have an accessory navicular bone in my left ankle. My podiatrist has recommended surgery to fix both my feet (which would lead to not walking on the operated foot for 3 months approx), but for years, I’ve been fine using my orthotics and my beloved MBT shoes. I’ve had coworkers make fun of the shoes I wear– they look gawky, they’re like diabetic shoes– and people have said, why the hell did you wear that? Girls have to wear pumps and boots! I mean yes, these shoes make my feet look big and I’m highly unfashionable, but hey, I can’t walk without pain otherwise! *Patti Stanger, your message to women is that they have to be a size 0-4, wear pumps, and pushup bras to land millionaires. Well I guess I won’t be marrying a millionaire any time soon, anyway I digress.*
So I’ve worked in a hospital for the past 9 months, seeing anywhere from 11 to 17 plus patients a day. I walk all around the hospital in my MBT shoes and I haven’t had any pain. I resigned from my position and became a home care therapist for around a month– walking the streets of Chinatown daily, up and down flights of creaky stairs, and sometimes, navigating 10+blocks/avenues, hopping subway trains and buses to get from patient to patient. The joy in bringing independence back to patients– just today, I helped a man out of his apartment for the first time in weeks– he stood staring at the sunny streets that can’t be seen from his apartment like a dazed child– afraid but full of joy– this feeling you can’t get anywhere else.
But after working as a traveling therapist, the pain in my ankles have returned. Even with my MBT shoes, I’m left in pain and tired all night– I can’t go to the gym, I can’t exercise, I’m completely spent. It’s such a wonderful job and rewarding experience… I actually feel like a real physical therapist here. I feel I’ve made such a difference in the short amount of time I traversed through the streets of Chinatown. But unfortunately, if I am to avoid surgery on my feet, I’ll have to resign from my job– it requires someone who is physically fit and healthy, and unfortunately, I’m in need of therapy myself. So thus ends my short stint as a traveling therapist. I’ll miss the freedom and flexibility I’ve experienced and the immense joys of helping patients in their homes. Such is life– how ironic it is for a physical therapist to relieve the pain of her patients and help them get better and yet she can not help herself. And thus with a heavy heart and much sadness, I resigned from my wonderful position today and will take a nice vacation to myself before returning to be cooped up for 7-8 hours inside four walls, but never a hospital again as an acute care therapist– there was no joy in that job, no respect, just lots of lifting and back breaking *your own, not the patients’*