How Physical Therapy Became My True Calling: A Non-Traditional DPT Students Mini-Story.
Written July 30, 2017
I am in my last year of my Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, However; I am also going to be 30 years old when I graduate. Unlike a majority of Doctor of Physical Therapy Students, I had a very different and unique road that has led me to what I believe is my true calling.
I graduated high school in 2006 and at that time thought I wanted to be a business major (lol). So I started taking classes at a local college, unfortunately, I had to withdraw from school due to the death of my father in early 2007. During this time I worked a variety of oddball jobs before returning to school in 2008. When I returned to school my stepmom died, and later that year my mom died. Losing so many family members so fast really hit me hard. My dad died due to sepsis from infective endocarditis, my stepmom due to liver failure, and my mom due to a pulmonary embolism of an unknown etiology.
My mom’s death hit me the hardest because she died suddenly 3 days after her birthday. On her birthday we went out for dinner and a movie (Tropic Thunder of all movies) and had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, this was the last time I would see her………. When I went to her house a few nights later there were police cars, fire trucks and an ambulance outside……I was super confused because the last person I thought all these police cars, ambulance, fire trucks, etc…. would be outside for would be my mom……Apparently, she was talking to her Aunt on the phone when she collapsed due to the PE, being super concerned my great aunt called the PD to check up on her. When I walked into my house, I was immediately confused by all the police activity……One asshole cop told me my mom was dead as soon as I said,”This is my mom’s house what’s going on”…..I was in shock, I was handed my golden retriever Reef and told to go for a walk with him as they removed the body. I sat outside in sheer disbelief for a long time (hours maybe)……. Luckily, I had an awesome neighbor at the time who was like a father to me as well come over and find out what was going on, he walked into my childhood home with me as I didn’t want to go in alone. There was some blood on the floor from the PE or when she fell and hit her head… we will never know. He helped me clean it up… What they don’t tell you about any time there’s a death, you are left to clean it up…… Still, in shock, I think I stayed up all night, and my neighbor helped me notify family members…..This really fucked me up for a while and still sometimes I need to repress this from flashbacks that can be triggered by stress.
Overnight I had estates to settle, animals to take care of, and at only 20 years old I was left to my own devices, after the funeral all my mom’s brothers and sisters left and I was left all alone…….. At this point, I knew I had 2 paths I could go down 1) Whine and moan about what happened to me or 2) Push through. Being the resilient person that I am, I chose to push through and ended up with a BA in Biology in 2011. But as we all know in this day and age all you can do with a BA in biology is deliver food or go to graduate school. I delivered food for a bit but was lucky enough to get a job as a hospital transporter after volunteering in a local hospital. This really solidified for me that I wanted to work in healthcare, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do yet. This would all change in June of 2012.
In June 2012, I was sitting in my car when suddenly, a pickup truck ran a red light and T-boned my car, pushing me into other stopped traffic. In a matter of seconds, the windows were smashed, the airbags were deployed, my back was bleeding, and I was in excruciating pain. I was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital where I received emergency medical care. In the days that followed, I could not move my arm and I needed help doing anything that required two hands. Due to my injuries, I was prescribed physical therapy.
When I started physical therapy I had no strength and minimal range of motion in my left shoulder, but through regular physical therapy sessions, I began to get it back. The various physical therapists that worked with me were the main reason for my progress. Because of them, I was able to get back to the lifestyle I was accustomed to before the accident.
Knowing I wanted to be a physical therapist, I knew I needed to step up my CV as my grades weren’t the best due to so many people in my family dying during undergrad and having to work to pay bills and pay for life, so I applied to a graduate public health program first.
In Fall 2013, I started my MPH program and due to upping the recommended course load I completed my MPH in only 3 semesters. My MPH course load gave me a vast knowledge of epidemiology, research protocols, vaccine schedules, tropical diseases, health policy, health education, health promotion, biostatistics, and so on. During my final internship of developing community health and nutrition programs, it became clear that I could tie all of this knowledge into my future DPT. *(During this time I was also living in Colorado Springs working on my MPH, becoming a personal trainer and CrossFit coach etc, but that’s a different post entirely)*
After completing my MPH, we moved from Colorado Springs to South Florida for my girlfriend to start medical school. During this year, I got a job as a data manager at a global CRO (clinical research organization), which eventually turned into safety manager, project manager, and eventually worked my way up to include market research analyst in my job title. *I left this position in April 2015 to start PT school in May 2015*
Whenever PTCAS opened in July 2014, I applied to 3 schools only. I ended up being accepted into 2 and chose to go to The University of Miami. I choose the University of Miami because my interview just felt right. I can honestly say that I am proud of my education from there and highly recommend UMiami to anyone hoping to become a physical therapist.
Now here’s the whole point of this post. There’s a quote that goes, “Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.”
I truly believe this not only from interactions with patients in the clinic, my athletes that I coach (also different story), and my classmates that look to me for advice. I have been told I have a unique ability to relate to others because :
A) I understand from experience (whether life or work experience).
B) I listen to everyone because I know what it’s like to be all alone and only have myself to rely on and you never know what someone else may be going through
C) My demeanor clinically and as a coach is one of whom not only treats the symptom or the cause, but treats the person as a whole.
D) I tell it like it is because life is to short to play games and not be direct and honest. Yes this may offend those younger classmates and so on, but those that know my story know why I am this way.
So for any non-traditional students considering being a physical therapist or those that have had or are going through a hard time, look at my story and know that you have something to offer this profession and especially your patients.