Mike used to be a rough carpenter. The money was good and he was good at it. He enjoyed playing practical jokes on his co-workers (painting their hammers pink and nailing their tool bags down, etc.) and he had a lot of good friends. He worked outside all winter and made the best of it. He was proud to drive past the homes he had helped to build. After his crew of buddies moved away (thanks Michigan economy!), he joined a new crew where he realized that it wasn't the job so much as the people he worked with, and once they were gone, so was his love of the job. And he didn't want to move away from his family to find work in other states.
After my dad tore his ACL and went through physical therapy, Mike got interested in PT and looked into it. How he chose this is probably a story I should know, but I was probably pregnant or nursing or somehow not paying attention. Mom and I always thought he should be a personal trainer; Mike is very fit and active and health conscious. PT seemed a good field for him, and PTAs (physical therapy assistants) are in high demand job-wise AND require a 2-year program. Mike already had some college in his background, and we were all happy for him when he went back to school and got into a PTA program.
Mike has spent the last several years working at least one job while in school full-time. A PT Aide position opened up at U-M, and Mike pursued it relentlessly. He was a top pick for the job, but had to wait for who-knows-what to happen to fill the opening. The time spent waiting for him to hear about the position was agonizing. Probably for him, too. I tried not to leave him a daily voice mail: "Did you hear yet?" "Any word from U-M?" "Hey how about that job?" I wanted that job for him and I wanted him to know that I cared and was waiting right along with him to get that job. (I probably made it pretty annoying.) When he finally got the call with an official nod and a start date, I could not have been happier than if my own child had announced a free ride to Harvard had been awarded him. (I'm pretty sure Mike was happy about it, too.)
So Mike started working at the U-M PT department (MedSport), cleaning up after patients, running errands, icing down patients, and being an aide. He was also still working thru the PTA curriculum at his college and getting more knowledgeable and experienced, and having more hands-on work with patients. Mom got her physical therapy at MedSport, and Mike would ice her down at the end. The people who work with Mike love him, with good reason. He works hard (thanks Dad for that work ethic!), is friendly and funny and nice. Also, some people think he is really good looking. He's my brother so I am not thinking along those lines, but I see where they are coming from. I remember feeding him jarred spaghetti baby food and him smearing it all over his face. But I have friends who think he should be a Calvin Klein underwear model (hands off my brother Jodie!). Anyway, he's made great friends at MedSport. And he isn't painting their stethoscopes pink or anything, but there is a certain amount of office fun and camaraderie that Mike enjoys. He is still Mike, after all, the boy who used to booby trap our house (a gene my boys seem to have inherited thankyouverymuch) and throw snow balls at cars.
He's now completing his clinicals and will graduate in May. Oh there will be a big party. I could not be prouder of my brother for what he has accomplished and for pursuing a career that was not easily achieved and that required years of being broke ass, but that satisfied his soul.
All this lead up so that I could share with you the e-mail that I received this morning from Mike. I've been crying ever since. Here it is:
I may have made you wonder why i told you that i loved making that patient scream yesterday when i stretched the hell out of his knee. Well, I guess i didn't love it until after wards. heres the details.......
it was a man who worked for Detroit Edison. he fell from a pole, into some trees wiping out his left side with broken ribs, lung damage, and knee that had a grade 3 sprain of his MCL (basically gone) a torn PCL, ACL, and damage to both the lateral and medial meniscus (i took a look at his MRI report). his knee could have been ripped off.
after docs at the ER patched up his ribs and lung, the man was sent home until his ortho appt for his knee. this gave time enough for him to scar down quite well. the average human knee flexes to about 130 - 150 degrees. as this man was thin, i wouldn't be surprised if he could get to 160 degrees normally. before his manipulation ((when a doctor either puts the patient under or uses a nerve block for pain so he can wrench the knee out of its scarred frozen state)) the man had about 70 degrees of flexion. during the manipulation he achieved 120 degrees of flexion. he was then sent to medsport where he waited a short while before seeing Kimberly, one of our finest PT's. in this amount of time due to swelling and scarring he was able to get only105 degrees of flexion from the help of Kim. It was at this point she handed him off to yours truly (like i said, getting a stiff n scarred knee to bend is kinda my thing).
I wheeled him to the biodex room and strapped him in to the chair as his wife looked on. i began easy, taking it slow to work him in gradually (as i do for everyone). ten minutes later this man was moaning with displeasure as I was bending his knee to roughly 110 degrees of flexion. not bad, but not enough. He was a hard worker with a high tolerance for pain with lots of motivation to get back to his job (which he loves). after all was said and done, after i had to close the door to the biodex room so as not to scare the ultrasonographers across the hall, after moans and screams of pain made his wife cringe (but proud), after i saw that his hands had imprints of the handle grips of the biodex machine when he let go, after his wife hurried from the room to get his pain medication, after about 25 minutes - he had achieved 120 degrees. the same amount that doctors had achieved hours before while his leg was semi-numbed with a nerve block. i watched and listened to this guy scream and holler as his forehead nearly exploded. and after the hell was over.... he thanked me. he said thank you for pushing me, Mike. he was so happy. i thanked him for being a hard worker and took him back to the gym area where he told people how much i had helped him.
that made me feel pretty good. I LOVE MY JOB!