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Physiotherapy gets my like!
"Movement can replace all medicines but no medicine is able to replace movement." - Wojciech Oczko
With this very true quote I would like to begin my article about physiotherapy and its meaning in my life. For many people, who have survived all sorts of accidents, who are ill and struggling with various health problems, rehabilitation is frequently the only help in fighting daily pain, the only assistance in recovering. I have noticed that people very often do not appreciate the importance of well-matched therapy, which can give great results and improve quality of one's life. They start to realise how truly useful it is only when it comes to fighting for their own lives and medicines are not helping anymore. That's when they learn that a GOOD therapist is a well-educated person. This matter is familiar to me because I have SMA and therapy has been present in my life since my childhood. My disease causes gradual weakening of muscles, which brings many consequences. Since the age of 3 when I was diagnosed with SMA, my adventure with rehabilitation has begun. It has not always been a pleasurable experience for me. Sometimes I cried, sometimes screamed, was resistant and averse to it. It is difficult to explain to a child that it has to exercise or suffer the pain of stretching contractures beacues it's ill. The child will say „no” and fight against the therapist. That's how my childhood with rehabilitation looked like. I remember how, being 7 or 8, I told my parents I wasn't going to exercise anymore, supporting my decision with very mature argument: „cause not”. My resistance turned out to be pointless, because after a short break, therapy had been resumed, which met my obvious disapproval. Repeating over and over again: „Marta, you have to exercise” caused even stronger resentment. Children hate being forced to do something. Well, everyone hates that, but sometimes you just don't have a choice. It wasn't easy for my parents either but they were aware of the fact that physiotherapy means fighting for my health and they cannot let go. More importantly, I cannot let go, I have to do my best, because it is all about me, my health and my life. To be honest, being 20 now, I regret not trying harder, not exercising more in the past. What can I say, hindsight is 20/20. I can't turn the time back, but I can learn from my mistakes, work hard and try to maintain my physical function at it's current level or improve it. Obviously, it wouldn't be possible without therapists.
I want to devote some part of my article to them. A big part, actually. I have exercised with many male and female therapists. So many that it's difficult for me to count them all, because when I was a patient of a children physiotherapy centre, which was funded by public healthcare, there was a high employee turnover. That's when I realised that the way therapists approach their work is incredibly important. This centre employed well-educated people, frequently with additional courses, who had contracts to perform a specified task and cleaning ladies who had contracts for an indefinite time, so one could expect that rehabilitation in such a place would be aimed at getting points for a patient, therefore making money, and nothing else. We were positively surprised when we observed that therapists worked really hard. It's difficult to exercise with children but after a few years I already knew what it means to have a good rehabilitation. Despite the unpleasant atmosphere caused by the boss who cared only about making money, therapists were truly committed to their work. Sadly, when I turned 18 and had to leave the centre, the situation was much worse. The best tharapists quit, looking for better offers and better money, which wasn't surprising. They wanted to keep educating themselves and such courses are really expensive. Besides, who would want to work in a place which was created with a noble idea: let's help the disabled children, and ended up being nothing else but a source of income for the boss. The only therapists who stayed were those who wanted to have any job at all (at least those whom I had contact with). What is more, I am a talkative and open person and it was difficult for me to get used to the lack of conversation and hear only commands such as „lift your arm”, „straighten up”, etc. and to feel the distance between me and my therapists (luckily it was already the end of my adventure with that centre). My experiences during that period of time ensured me that good therapists, who care and do their best, can effectively work with patients even without sophisticated equipment. Expensive devices won't be of much help if there is no commitment. Such a therapy is pointless, it tires and discourages both the therapist and the patient. That's how I felt before my 18th birthday when I had to make a decision whether I should write a request to have my therapy in that centre prolonged until I turn 21. I had a choice between a free therapy, where I was doing a little something or a chargeable one in another centre where I was already exercising once a week. Decision I made I would never regret and I consider it one of the wisest in my life, so I can be proud of myself.
Another great therapist worth mentioning is the one who used to visit me at home. She was demanding but reasonably, so the therapy was very well matched to me and my abilities. Exercises were diversified and interesting, but, most importantly, the therapist was a true professional, who was always well prepared and really enjoyed her job. A pleasant physiotherapy at a good level – what more could one want?
As I mentioned before, I happened to land in another centre where I found the other side of physiotherapy, meaning its other methods, such as the manual one and an amazing attitude towards patients. Honestly speaking, I don't know all of those specialist courses that my therapists have and whenever they try to inculcate them in me it turns out to be pointless. Well... what matters here is that I can see progress. Plus I spend time with awesome people, whom I enjoy talking to, goofing around and laughing at lame jokes. Such an atmosphere has a positive influence on a patient, who doesn't have to be worried or stressed. The head of the centre told me once that the therapy will give results only when the relations between the therapist and the patient are good. The contact is quite intimate and if I don't trust somebody I don't want them to touch me, i.e. my tighs or my stomach (especially if a woman exercises with a man, like me, or the other way round). That's why I appreciate when therapists are open. I prefer to have my therapy with men, because they're easier to talk to and I talk a lot, so I need to have that comfort.
Summing it all up, after so many years of physiotherapy, I can say without hesitation that therapists, who I have had the pleasure to meet in my life are the reason why my SMA has been stopped from getting worse. I am a lucky person, because every single one of them was both a great specialist and an awesome personality. They have taught me a lot and given me many useful tips and advices how to deal with everyday life of a disabled person. As a patient, who has couple of hours of therapy every week, I find it important to spend that time with a person who doesn't see me only as an opportunity to make money but as a human being who needs help due to health problems and also as someone who is worth talking to and having friendly relations with. Being a physiotherapist is not an easy job, therefore only people who have a calling can be good at it. But, as the quote at the beginning of my article puts it, movement, which equals therapy in my case, is the best medicine. Sometimes it is a difficult journey, but it is worth doing your best because no medicine can return you to complete health. Rehabilitation either, but it can be a huge help in convalescence. As for me, physiotherapy is currently the only treatment, therefore it deserves my like.
translation: Beata Skiba