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Toni Talks about PT Today

What Will You Do?

Published December 11, 2007 8:44 AM by Toni Patt

What will you do if something happens to you?  What if you have a catastrophic stroke? What if it is your parent in ICU barely hanging on? What if your child is born with spastic CP? What if your brother is involved in a terrible accident? There are endless possibilities. What if your life changed forever? Do you ever think about it? I do. My big fear is a stroke and loss of independence. I practice using my left arm in case I lose use of my right one. I know, only a PT would think of that.

No one knows when something will happen. These sorts of tragedies are almost random as they can't be predicted. The elderly don't plan to fall and break a hip. No one schedules a car wreck. Parents don't expect to outlive their children. These things happen. In what can seem like a blink of an eye your life can change forever. I like my lifestyle. I've worked hard to get here. If things changed I would be angry. I don't want to give up my home. I don't want to become the primary caregiver for a family member. Yet it happens all the time. Most of our patients find themselves in this exact predicament.  

As therapists we have one advantage. We are familiar with the medical world. We understand the terminology. We've been exposed to the process. I don't know if this really helps. I've never had to deal with it. Sometime in PT school I realized this could happen to me. It's been in the back of my mind ever since. I have thought about what I'll do if I get a phone call telling me someone close to me has been injured. I am amazed how some people can rise to the challenge. Some of the nicest patients I've worked with have been significantly involved. I've seen family members drop everything to step in and care for a loved one. I don't know how they do it.

For me, the worst part will be the loss of control and the suddenness. I tell myself I'll be prepared. I tell myself I'll see forward into the future. I hope I'll be a good patient. Somehow I doubt that. I'll be the one telling the therapist she isn't doing it correctly. I'll be debating the physicians about alternative treatments. Some people would call that a personality disorder. Others would compliment me on how well I'm handling things. I don't know what will happen in the future. I concentrate on today. I just wonder if anyone else thinks the same way.

posted by Toni Patt


I never thought of anything happening to me until January 11, 2005. I was working with a large boy with autism when he completely dislocated my left shoulder, not on purpose though.  My humeral head was sitting directly in my chest. Good times! I had 3 surgeries, 2 minor arthroscopic, one 8 hours in length to transplant cartilage harvested from my right knee into my left shoulder along with a right tibial periosteal flap. The surgery worked but the cartilage has left my left shoulder completely unstable to the point where Grade III subluxations are up to 6/day now.

I am not willing to go under the scope or knife again as the third surgery was worst pain I have ever had to deal with in my life. Rehabilitation took 2+ years just took return to WFL. I rehab daily with no positive outcomes unfortunately.

I have many many friends from graduate school who have gotten severely injured while working. Some even worse than I. I do not regret my decision of choosing PT as a career, although I wish the APTA would warn potential students about the very high incidence of work-related injury and lost days of work from being a PT.

We work so hard for out patients to get better, yet so many of the companies, hospitals, etc, dump us out on the street after we get injured and can't perform our job duties because of injuries performed on that job. It's a sad world for the injured PT.

John Moore, pediatrics - PT February 11, 2008 10:31 PM

I too wondered & worried about tomorrow, how would I handled a fearful and devastating crisis?  Then it happened, I had developed ulcerative colitis, the new and old rxs did not work, I was dying very slowly with so much blood loss. I couldn't remember things, I couldn"t read nor retain info read, I had stroke-like symptoms, I could not help myself, I was so weak!  My love & trust for my creator sustained me thru this crisis and ileostomy surgery.  I lived, took me 3 years to recover.  Now I live my moments with  vitality and vigor being thankful for life and being there for others in major crisises that overshadow mine.  We reach deep in our souls and find the strength to move on with life.                                          

ANA January 18, 2008 9:46 PM

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