Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Adventures in PT Land

In case you missed yesterday's post, and don't want to read it right now, you're joining us half-way through an evaluation at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. I'm finished with the physiatrist and the orthotist who have pronounced me surgically healed but full of bad habits.
Bill the Orthotist escorted me into and out of the elevator. We left the relative calm of Orthotics and entered the bustle of Out Patient Physical Therapy. My limp was put into perspective; whining was out of the question.

The four year old on her mother's lap helped me sign in and retrieve my clipboard and pen before her mother's wheelchair carried them away from the registration desk, deftly managing coats and boots and bags and a child as only a mother can... whether her legs can support her or not. It's always reassuring to be reminded of those universal truths.

I dragged my winter coat and scarf and tote bag and registration questionnaire and my self to the very first chair and plopped us all down with a flourish.... or perhaps with a vague resemblance to an exhausted hippopotamus... but in any event it struck a chord with my neighbor and before long we two were engaged in adoring that same 4 year old who was now busily adjusting and readjusting the hem of her skirt to get it just so. We didn't have a chance to learn much more about one another because before I was halfway down the first page of the questionnaire, Kelly came out and found me.

She didn't announce my name; she approached me and shook my hand. I noticed that she watched as I gathered my possessions and took leave of my chair. My evaluation had begun.

Ushered into a private treatment area, with a floor to ceiling view of Lake Michigan and a 5'x6' raised mat competing for my attention, Kelly watched me park my parcels and then myself as she asked for the 3 things I'd like to learn, for the areas I wondered about, what I needed to feel fulfilled by the end of our appointment. I was a partner in this process and she aimed to please.

An athlete herself, Kelly understood the psychic blow as well as the physiological consequences of my injuries. Did you know that there is research which shows that psychological stress and fear can lead to low-grade inflammation? I did not. Instead of using N-SAID's and aspirin as my first line of defense, Kelly suggested that I assess the threat level of the pain . What was I worried about? Was it a valid concern?

How about the clicking in my hip? It's a more-often-than-not accompaniment to ambulation. I'd been told it was bone on bone but Dr. Roth, RIC's physiatrist in chief, said that was a more frightening explanation than I needed. Bone on bone sounds so awful and irreparable, he went on. What I was hearing was ligaments getting stuck on a protrusion. What did Kelly think about that?

She didn't miss a beat. Did it hurt? I stopped, paused, thought, and smiled; it didn't hurt at all. I was the ref calling what I anticipated I would see instead of what actually happened. It sounded awful and it carried an awful nomenclature so I decided it was bad and I worried. My worrying exacerbated the situation; I was the instrument of my own discomfort.

That was strangely comforting. As I began to release the anxiety I felt building up with each click and clack and plink my stride lengthened and my gait smoothed out. I was actually swinging my arms.... until I realized that I was swinging my arms and tensed up all over again. It was an epiphany.

There were exercises to be learned along with the new mind set I was adopting. I was no longer to refer to any part of my body as my bad side. Injured was more acceptable, but right and left were preferred. There's no judgment attached to directionality, and that's where I need to be. If I see a physical therapist three to five times a week, along with my other modalities, no one at RIC has any doubt that I will continue to improve over the next few years. I just have to stick with it, each and every day, twice a day for stretching and carving out a space for just plain walking. No wonder Gabby resigned; this getting better stuff is a full-time job. I've been paying lip service to it for a while; now it's time to step up and really do it.

I've found a potential therapist here in Tucson; there weren't any direct connections from Chicago to Tucson's PT community so I traveled the friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend route to end up with a woman I think I'll like. Her parting words as we set up our Valentine's Day first appointment set the proper tone: I'll be able to hear you coming, won't I? She picked right up on the piece that is making me crazy - that hip clicking - and she's putting it in perspective.

I like a woman with attitude, especially when that attitude is designed to start me healing right away. That clicking in my hip that she joked about hearing? That's all it is... a giant karmic joke.... at which I can choose to laugh or to cry..... which can make me cringe or remind me that I am still here to hear it.... that can get in my way or be a musical accompaniment to my recovery.

I'm going with the smiles. After all, the research says they work.
Tune in tomorrow for the third piece of this adventure - I see the orthopedic surgeon for his opinon.


  1. That's awesome about finding a suitable therapist in Tucson. And you have one that has a sense of humor--always a big plus.

    I have no doubt you will be able to stick with your exercises. It's because of your commitment to exercising before the injury, you have been able to come as far as you have. Keep it up. :)


    Megan xxx

  2. Can you be a friend of a friend and name your PT? I'm due for some work on the shoulders so I can turn my head. Have you tried Superfeet inserts? They have helped my archless feet through the years. The facility in Chicago sounds wonderful. I'm glad you went there, hopefully this will expedite recovery to how you want to be.

  3. Alison. I will be delighted to share the name once I find her/him. My next step is an eval with the PT with attitude" to see if her specialty (with Parkinson patients) is right for me or if she wants to send me to a colleague. I see her on Valentines Day; you know I'll be posting on it soon thereafter...what would I do for prompts if I weren't injured???I'm off to find Superfeet inserts first!


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