Thank You!

Photo of G, Face askew to protect his identity. Used with permission.

Thank you.

These are words do not carry enough weight when the act you are grateful for means so much to you.

Two months ago myself and 30 other classmates travelled to Costa Rica to work with patients on a service learning trip.  We worked with patients that ran the gamut of the Physical Therapy spectrum.  Things we had only read about and learned in class  were now in front of us.

Our experience was fantastic, I could elaborate more about all of the patients, but here I choose to focus on ONE in particular and what MANY did to help them.

“G” is an 18 year old living with muscular dystrophy, and all of us interacted with him, and he changed our lives.

His demeanor was nothing short of the definition of “Remarkable”. (that’s actually one of the highest compliments that I can give someone, it’s an underrated word)  He essentially is in one of the toughest positions imaginable, with only limited wrist function as his only active movement. He has no real head trunk or lower extremity muscle action, and no shoulder or elbow function. But, despite that he is one of the happiest and positive kids I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

He was seated in a tilt in space chair.  Unable to use a manual wheelchair for reasons of strength deficits.  The only way he could move himself, turn his head or change his point of view is if someone else was to do it for him.  Dr. Julie Reis had us perform what was to be the easiest 10 minutes of NeuroRehab lab in the 3 years of PT school. Sit still, not moving any part of your body for just ten, easy, minutes.  But, it’s one of the hardest ten minutes we had in three years.

Try it.  I dare you.  No other exercise will put you into someone else’s world like this. And, this is just for ten minutes and it’s brutal.

What I’m getting at is, this put us in G’s frame of reference.  So when my classmates and I saw what his minute to minute life was like, we all agreed with a resounding, “Unacceptable”.  Now, this was through no fault of his care takers, a power wheelchair was just NOT an option for purchase.

Which is where my “Thank You” comes from.  We had PTs, SPTs and people from outside of the profession donate.  I said before on our podcast, “I’d rather have 18,000 people each give $1 than wait for an $18,000 check.” And that’s pretty close to what happened.

People from around the world donated, $1, $5, $50.  Anonymous or with their name proudly attached.

PTs donated seats in continuing education courses for us to auction off, students from the class of 2016 bought T-Shirts, a pilates studio (Mind the Mat in Alexandria VA) held a class for us and donated all of the funds to the chair.

People spread the word, they told a friend and shared online.  They put someone they never met, in their day.  And that is worth thanks.

Funds were also raised from an amazing 5K race that is held annually at Marymount University.  It is put on by the Marymount University Department of Physical Therapy, led by the Chair of the program, Dr. Skye Donovan and staffed by both the students of the PT program and the athletic teams of the University.  The race raised funds for our trip, but Dr. Donovan managed to save some left over for any “special projects” that happened to pop up, and she thought enough of “G” to help.

Permobil is a wheelchair company.  One of our professors, Dr. Kelly Negley, works with them on a regular basis and ranked them as the “chair to use” when we set our sights on buying one.  Throughout the process, they made finding the right chair easy, to make sure “G” got what he needed.  Also, to their credit, “magically” the more we told the staff at Permobil about “G” the-lower-the-price-kept-going.  So we thank them for thinking so highly of “G” to meet us where we were in our fundraising arc, to make sure we got an amazing chair that is right for him, at a price that we could make happen and had the patient in mind to make sure we could get him the chair quickly, because each day that passes is another that he sits without independent mobility.

We talked about it several times on our podcast with guests, telling the story of “G” and allowing the internet to carry his story to the corners of the earth.

Finally, a woman who I only met once, Ms Barbara Favola a Virginia State Senator for the 31st district and a friend of Marymount University came into the fold.  I told her about “G”, and even though I tried to continue to tell her how amazing he was and how much a chair would mean, she had already decided after a few seconds that she would help.  She found funds that ultimately put us over the edge to be able to give “G” this gift.

This project had two important things, a great idea, one that should be done and the people who had the conviction to put someone before them to see it through.

So, that’s the long way to say, “Thank You”.  But sometimes the long way is the better way to go, if the destination is worth it.

More to come as we hope to let you know when “G” receives his chair.



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