All the time I get asked “Why Physical Therapy?” and I often give a short cut, 30-second answer but the truth is that my answer has been developing and becoming more specific ever since the sixth grade. Yes, since the sixth grade. Isn’t that crazy? A lot of my friends still didn’t know what they wanted to do in high school, or some even in undergrad, let alone sixth grade! That’s where it all started, I had a class in sixth grade where I was assigned to go on a website where you could research all types of careers. I don’t know why my mind chose to remember the detail of this but the website was bright neon colors and had all of these bubbles and drop down menus filled with different career choices. Our job was to create a top five list on the website and somehow I came across physical therapy and my little sixth grade mind found it to be fascinating. I definitely still agree with my sixth grade self, but now for totally different reasons.
I played basketball as a kid from middle school to high school and had a lot of knee problems. For my PT friends out there, I had chronic patella subluxations due to ligamentous laxity and eventually had my medial patellofemoral ligament reconstructed. For my non-PT friends, my knee cap used to pop out of place, all the time. So many times that eventually I had one of the supporting ligaments reconstructed. Thanks to my not so great left knee, I found myself in and out of physical therapy on several occasions. I went to PT as a kid to prevent surgery and I went again after both of my knee surgeries. This allowed for me to really get a good look into what PT was and what the therapists did. I had some awesome physical therapists along the way, they made PT fun and challenged me! At this point in my life I was all about outpatient physical therapy. I thought the idea of working with athletes was amazing (I can blame Queen Latifah in Just Wright for that!)
In January of 2010 my sweet little sister, Melanie, suffered an ankle injury that landed her in a walking boot for several months before she was ultimately diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). If you want to read about Melanie’s story you can do so here. Melanie ended up seeing a physical therapist who has become a family friend. He went above and beyond to provide her with the best care he possibly could, no exaggeration. PT was rough for Melanie, still is! Seeing this different perspective of PT got the gears turning in my head. My sister wasn’t an athlete and she didn’t necessarily have an end point with therapy like I did, since it’s a chronic condition. The seed for pediatric PT was really planted here but I’m not confident I realized it at this point.
So graduation comes and it’s time to apply to PT programs, I didn’t necessarily do my research while in undergrad as well as I should have. I graduated in May and thought I could apply to start that August… NOPE, the earliest I could apply for was the following August. This meant I needed a job! My job search was very broad, I applied anywhere related to physical therapy, pediatrics, or the health field in general. I drove around town in a pencil skirt (I had never ever worn a pencil skirt before) with a folder full of resumes and my fingers tightly crossed. I dropped my resume off at a pediatric outpatient clinic called Ability Plus Therapy and to my pleasant surprise they called me back a few days later to schedule an interview. My interview went great and a couple of weeks later I started my job as a therapy tech alongside some of the most amazing physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists out there! I have a whole lot to say about my experiences at Ability Plus, so don’t forget that name it’s going to pop up in a future blog post.
My job at Ability Plus Therapy pushed me to grow in so many areas. I became more compassionate, I learned about a large variety of diagnoses, I was mentored, I got to really get my hands in there during treatment sessions. Along the way I made some really great friends with theses therapists and they supported me through my application process and celebrated with me the day I packed up my desk to head to Miami. The therapists there are amazing, but the kids are really who stole my heart and redirected my physical therapy dreams. A lot of times when I tell people I’m studying physical therapy and that I want to work with kids they assume I mean little league baseball players and ballerinas. Nope, the kind of kids I want to work with often time have a diagnosis that leaves them with the need for long term care. This means that the therapy gym becomes a normal environment for them, the therapists become like family friends, and the therapy becomes fun games. What I loved most about this side of PT was the ability to turn constructive therapy into a fun game and really get the kids involved. The children that receive care at Ability Plus are the sweetest, strongest, and most optimistic kids I’ve ever met.
So why physical therapy, Alyssa? Because I love helping people. I love the purity of a child and how it comes with such genuine strength and optimism. I love that I will be there to help children accomplish things they and their parents were unsure if they would ever be able to do. Pediatric therapy is going to allow me to touch the hearts of so many children and families and just the same, my heart will be continuously shaped by them in return. So to me, physical therapy is an easy choice, that’s why I haven’t changed my mind since sixth grade. Next week I plan to discuss my application process and it’s challenges for me. It was not easy but now you know how sure I am of this profession, and that’s what drove me.
Some of my awesome co-workers from Ability Plus Therapy ft. Vanilla Ice