Physical Therapy Is Adding “Life” to Life

Nemesio F. shares a story about supporting patients and families in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy

Physical Therapist Nemesio“In 2012, I was handling a patient in Staten Island. Initially, the patient was bedbound. The patient had a home health aide but the son was actively involved and participated in care because his business and office are just behind his father’s home. His father was getting better in terms of function and strength, and was trying to walk with a walker. Together with the son and home health aide, we had fun during therapy sessions as my patient improved.

“But on October 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy made a landfall in New Jersey. There was a big storm surge. When I saw in the news that the water started to cross the Father Capodanno Boulevard, I thought of my patients, former patients, and all the residents of Midland Beach and South Beach sections of Staten Island. They were going to get hit hard, and everything went black when the wind brought down powerlines.

“The next day, I went to work, hoping that I would be able to get to my area. For two days, the Port Authority police officers did not allow me to cross the Staten Island bridges, even though I was presenting my credentials as health care provider. On the third day, I was able to go in. I was horrified to see the devastation that Superstorm Sandy brought to Staten Island. I started calling my patients. The first one I got in touch was the son of my bedbound patient. He agreed for me to come, and I was hoping to see my patient.

“When I got to the patient’s home, I was greeted by the son. The first thing he did was hug me and cried on my shoulder. He lost his business in the flood. Worse, he almost lost his father. He brought me to his father’s room and told me that the water was up to his father’s chest in his bed, when the rescuers came and took him to the hospital. His father was freezing to death and he couldn’t do anything.

“I started to comfort the son in this tragedy. I gave him words of encouragement and hope. I gave him assurance of support from me. He stopped crying and started to smile. We parted ways and I hoped to see my patient. I never saw the patient again.

“Being a physical therapist is not just giving exercise and making the patient functional again. It is about adding ‘life’ to life. It is also adding ‘life’ to people around patient. And no matter how much I pour into patient care, whether I feel I’ve succeeded or not, I know I have accomplished something when I leave the patient smiling.”

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