Hey Mel! – My Year at the Physical Therapy Department

Ten months ago, I went to the Shenandoah Memorial Hospital to make an appointment for my first of many Physical Therapy sessions. After completing the usual paperwork, an appointment date was set. The lady who was helping with the formalities wrapped things up by saying “You’ll be working with Melanie, you’re gonna like her”.

Being the male pig that I am, my first thought was that maybe she was a massage therapist originally from Sweden and had just begun a new career after her days with the Bikini Team. But insurance doesn’t cover that apparently. Having the receptionist predicting “you’re gonna like her” with such certainty struck me as odd. Well, I should have asked her for that night’s lottery numbers, if I’d only known that she really could see into the future.

I’ve been jokingly calling the past twelve months “The Continuing Saga of the $1.38 Man”. We have the ability! We can rebuild him! But the truth of the matter is that these past twelve months have actually sucked the big one. Nine days from now will be the One Year anniversary of me entering the hospital for a two month stay that almost killed me, in more ways than one. Therapy at SMH began next, originally for a constantly painful coccyx, and then right into post-op therapy for surgery on my left shoulder. I was coming down the home stretch of recovery when I injured my right knee, which was operated on last week.

Between the weeks spent bed-ridden in a hospital, to chasing constant pain around different areas of my body, through session after session of Therapy, then hours on my own spent at the hospital’s gym trying to rebuild my body, I’ve had a Whole lot of time to think.

I can easily name and see the faces of thirty people that attended to me over the past twelve months. But that’ll be a story for a different day. Today is about Mel, for two very good reasons. The men and women that work in the Medical Industry are human. And most are Super-Human. They spend their lives relieving the pain from patients like me who they themselves can be a pain. As I lay in bed or as I sat on a stationary bike, I developed my own little case study of those wonderful people that I had met who have dedicated their lives to helping others.

Case study subject Number 1. Melanie.

Standing five-foot nothing, my first impression was that of a little, compact, glowing ball of energy, exuding confidence through a pleasant smile and a quirky sense of humor. Not two weeks into knowing this young woman did I ask her “Have you ever seen ‘The Silence of The Lambs?” Now, being compared to a country gal turned FBI agent seeking to capture a serial killer, by employing the help of a psychopath who cannibalizes for dinner, probably isn’t way up there on the list of ‘Flattering Things to say to a Woman’. But my connection was this. The movie’s heroine, Clarice, came from humble beginnings, excelled in her career through dedicated, hard work and could speak in an intelligent, meaningful manner; untarnished by the twang of her Southern accent. It was like Clarice personified, except a conversation might begin with a silly knock-knock joke, followed by an understandable explanation of the extreme atrophy in my left shoulder.

A few weeks ago, I was proudly telling Mel of how I could feel a noticeable improvement in the mass of my once-pitiful shoulder muscle. She reached out to touch and assess for herself. If a stranger did that to you, you’d probably flinch instinctively. But I didn’t give it a second thought. Not at least until half way during the short ride home, when I found myself chuckling at how much I naturally trusted my little ‘Miracle Worker’.

But Mel isn’t the only one working in the Rehab facility. Maybe she might be seen as a ringleader in a circus full of healers. There have been many a day where it really hurts to get out of bed. It hurts to get into my car. But I still do both and drive myself to the hospital’s gym. All of the therapy isn’t physical. A lot of it is mental. There’s always an air of enthusiasm, encouragement, and hopefulness at the gym. The only contagious thing floating around that department is self-improvement. When I drag my sorry self to the gym each day, I’m motivated by not wanting to let them down. They want me to get better, so I’m dedicated at getting better.

I’d have to imagine that patients sometimes become numbers to hospital staff. And hospital staff are sometimes perceived by patients as irritants to their own aches and pains. Recuperating patients may not always show their appreciation for the dedicated work of the hospital worker, but they’re thinking it. Trust me. We talk. I might not say so directly to the staff, but I try to show my gratitude by delivering homemade baked goodies from time to time.

Two reasons to make this gibberish about Melanie? First off, she’s made a gigantic, positive impact on my life during this past year. And secondly, “Hey, Mel! Happy Birthday!”