I'm not much for the bar scene, but I've always been a fan of the '80s show "Cheers" -- you know the one. It starred Ted Danson, and was about a disparate group of people who found a defacto family in a Boston tavern.
I had surgery several days ago and am in the process of undergoing some pretty challenging physical therapy to get everything back in working order. Three years ago, after undergoing a similar surgery, I chose to rehabilitate my knee at a place called Johnston Physical Therapy. I'm going there again now, and whenever I walk in the door, the "Cheers" theme song runs through my head. The main refrain is: "You want to go where everybody knows your name." And as cheesy as it sounds, that's the kind of place it is.
Never having been an athlete, I had known nothing about physical therapy until my son, Scott, hurt his knee playing hockey several years ago. Someone recommended JPT to us, and off we went; Scott rehabbed there a few times a week, and I learned a lot. But as Scott was 17 at the time and didn't always want his mommy tagging along to rehab, I didn't immerse myself as much as I wanted to in the process and was left to wonder why he was doing certain exercises, why they were taping his knee, and just how critical all this was to his recovery.
When I had my first knee replacement, in 2008, I learned all that and more. Above all, I learned that in a time of impersonal medical mega-practices and hospitals that want to get you out of their beds as quickly as possible, a practice that truly wants to get to know you and determine how to best help you is rare indeed.
Here's what they do that's truly different: They tap into who you are and how you're likely to best accomplish your goals. Andrew, pictured above, is the guy who owns the place, and I've been fortunate enough to have him as my therapist both times now. Early on, he determined that I'm competitive and tend to do better when he dangles some sort of number or distance in front of me. Yesterday, he mentioned the fact that at my last appointment, I hadn't activated my quad muscle as much as he would have liked. Duly challenged, I did what he was asking me to do, and more. Later, I found out that he had made the whole thing up; he simply wanted to see how much better I could do if he made me believe I hadn't done well enough last time.
Well done, Andrew. The result is that I'm achieving the goals he's set for me, and I'm on my way to full mobility in my surgical knee. The really notable thing, though, is that I love going to physical therapy. Again, keep in mind that I'm historically not a person who likes to move any more than I have to, so that's a big deal.
I hold no illusions about being any more special than any other client, so the way I'm treated there is amazing to me; after an absence of three years, I came back to the same group of therapists; a few had been added, but none had left. No turnover in three years; that's remarkable in my book. And the therapists there recalled not only that I had had a knee replaced, but the degree to which I ended up being able to bend that knee after all was said and done.
And here's something I'll always remember: A combination of bad meds and overwhelming pain last time reduced me to tears on a couple of occasions, and I spent two entire therapy sessions crying my way through the stationary bike, exercises and kinesiology. Instead of reacting as any number of people would -- i.e., saying "Get the crazy lady off my table" -- Andrew reassured Kevin and me that me feelings were normal, and that they would pass. And they did.
I have the utmost respect for my orthopedic surgeon, for the anesthesiologists who put me to sleep and woke me up again, and for a few of the nurses who took care of me in the hospital -- the ones who actually knew what my medications were for, didn't forget to give them to me, and managed to lock the bed so I didn't fall (that's a story for later).
But more than anything, I owe my recovery to an unassuming guy named Andrew who has cultivated a staff of truly caring therapists. A sign in the facility's entry way says something about, "People won't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Luckily for me and for other Johnston Physical Therapy patients, that's not just a cliche.