Six traits of an awesome physical therapist

My heart is heavy today. The physical therapist, who was such an instrumental part of my knee recovery, is moving to a new city. Part of her going away present from me was a letter, detailing the six ways she is an awesome physical therapist. I’m publishing the list to honor her and to make readers of this blog aware of what excellent PT looks like. I hope you are as lucky as I’ve been to have such an amazing partner in healing.

Six Ways Brooke is an Awesome Physical Therapist

  1. You inspire hope that change will take place and that hard work will be rewarded.
    Remember that appointment when I told you how utterly exhausted I was? You asked why, and I tallied up all of the squats you had prescribed for me in my home program that week – 300 a day! I had done them all faithfully, every day, and I was shattered. The look on your face told me you hadn’t thought I’d actually do them all, and we had a good laugh. I am still proud of the fact that I was able to put in such a heroic effort. I certainly couldn’t have done it that week or any other week if you hadn’t instilled in me the unshakable belief that I would recover 100% through diligent, hard work.
  2. You help me become more confident and aware in my overall movement.
    I don’t think I told you this, but my surgeon was sort of a buzz kill. As soon as I was out of the operating room, he told me about all the ways I could reinjure my knee. Sure, it was obvious that the joint would be vulnerable for a while, but he made it sound like I was doomed to a life without dancing. (What was the point of surgery, exactly?) Each time I see you, though, I learn something new about how my body works and how tissue heals. I learn how to move in ways that protect my knees and elbows. I gain confidence that I can take care of my body so that it will happily support me on all the adventures I want to go on, including all-night dance parties and a week-long bike tour through Death Valley only six months after knee surgery.
  3. You improve my spirit.
    About a month into my recovery, my knee was unusually swollen – so much so that I didn’t even want to bend it. It was a predictable, temporary backslide in my recovery, but I was having a hard time seeing that. At my appointment that afternoon, you asked me how I was doing. When I responded, “Not very good today,” you took me to one of the private rooms. The emotional rope tying me together unwound. You massaged my knee. I cried. You didn’t say “I told you so.” Instead, you told me how proud you were of how far I’d come. That’s all we did that day, and I left feeling just a little bit more like I’d make it through.
  4. You teach me that “patience is an action, too.”
    You set an example every time I see you by having infinite patience with me – with my endless questions about physiology, my need for evidence that the treatment I’m receiving is empirically supported, my need to see consistent improvement, and my self-doubt when (unsurprisingly) my body has other ideas. In your gentle way, you have aligned my expectations of how fast a body can heal with reality. Thanks to you, I have a better sense that patience is not an absence of action; rather, it is a matter of timing. You have taught me that waiting for the right time to act in the right way is one of the most powerful actions we can do.
  5. You help me appreciate the small things.
    Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s true. It would be so easy for me to be sad about how my body is supposed to be or to focus on how long my recovery would be. But what good is that? You always celebrate each small improvement with me, whether it is 2 degrees of flexion, less pain, standing on one foot while playing catch, or going on my first post-op hike. You help me see them for the priceless gifts that they are.
  6. You are constantly striving to learn more and be better at what you do.
    If I had a dollar for every time you said, “I looked this up” or “I wanted to know more about … so I talked to this person who is an expert,” I’m pretty sure I could pay my entire PT bill. I love that you aren’t satisfied with what you learned in school. You work to stay on top of the latest research and are willing to change how you treat injuries based on the best available science. Every time you explain something to me, I am astounded by how much you know and how good you are at helping me heal and stay healthy.

I am in your debt. Best wishes to you in your transition to a new city and a new clinic. I hope your new patients know and appreciate what gifts you have to give them.

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