During my years as a grade school student at Walkerton Elementary School, every 2 weeks I would get excused from class for the day to go on a private field trip. My aide and I would get on the short bus to make the 30 minute drive to Plymouth, Indiana. We would always stop somewhere like McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken to get lunch, and I usually ended up with some sort of new toy as a result of these trips too. You would think that getting out of school, fast food instead of school food, and getting a new toy would make these days something I would look forward to, but it was actually quite the opposite. I hated going on these personal field trips because of where they took me. These little excursions were to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, where I would see Rosie, my physical therapist.
Rosie, a fit, middle-aged woman with long black hair and dark features, was an amazing physical therapist. She knew exactly how to motivate you and how hard to push for you to make as much progress as possible. Looking back as an adult I can appreciate how great she was, and realize how fortunate I was that I got to work with her. As a child though, I saw her as this cruel witch of a woman who took joy in pushing and pulling my body in as many painful ways as she could think of. For the longest time I actually thought that the initials “PT” after her name stood for “pain and torture.” I knew that going to see her meant an hour of pain followed by 2 days of soreness, not to mention the fact that she gave me exercises to do at home until my next session. So, as you can imagine, these trips quickly became something I greatly disliked and tried to avoid. It was not until I saw something on one of these torture sessions that I was finally able to grasp why I had to do this and what she was trying to do for me.
I was about 11 years old, and it was one of those days where I had to go suffer through Rosie’s painful prodding. As always, we rode the bus to the hospital where the torture chamber was, and I got out of my wheelchair onto the therapy table. About 30 minutes into my session as Rosie was working her worst on my calves and hamstrings, I looked across the room and saw another therapist working with a young man of about 17. He used a power wheelchair like me and looked like he had a disability similar to mine. He looked different from me though, because his muscles were so tight and his joints were so contracted that he could barely move his limbs at all. Just getting his coat off was extremely difficult because his arms would not move. I continued watching his therapist struggle to work with him throughout the rest of my session, as I wondered what had caused his body to end up that way, and more importantly whether that could happen to me.
Once I was back in my wheelchair, and Rosie was walking my aide and I out to our cheese colored chariot, my curiosity got the better of me, and I asked her what was wrong with that young man. She said, “Well, he didn’t come see us as much as he should have and never did exercises at home, so his muscles got very stiff.” I thought about this and asked, “Will that happen to me someday?” Rosie replied, “That’s kind of up to you, Scott. If you keep coming to work with me and do your exercises at home like I prescribe, your muscles will stay loose. That’s why I push you so hard.” I thought about that poor, crippled teen and what Rosie had said the entire ride home and for several days after that until the light bulb in my head finally lit up.
After letting this new information percolate in my mind for a few days, it finally clicked for me why Rosie worked me so hard and why I had to exercise my muscles at home between therapy sessions. I had to endure a few hours or days of painful poking and prodding now, in order to keep my body in shape so that down the road I would be able to live and enjoy a full, happy life. I don’t know if this was never explained to me, or if I was just too young and immature to grasp the concept, but this was the first time that I really understood the real importance of these trips. Rosie was not this evil, sadistic she-devil who got off on causing me pain. She was putting me through all of these things to give me the best chance at achieving the independent, successful life I had always dreamed of. It was tough love, and with everything she did to me, she must have loved me a hell of a lot.
This revelation and the importance of these field trips in giving me the best chance at a full life is a good example of how sometimes you have to go through painful or difficult situations now in order to reap much larger benefits in the future. This is an important lesson to learn, especially since we live in a society where the common mentality is one of instant gratification. When you are deciding whether a given task is worth the effort and time that you put into it, make sure you take the time to look beyond the potential benefits you will gain this week or this month, and think about what you could gain a year from now. It may be well worth some minor unpleasantness now, to gain major rewards later. What sort of “pain and torture” do you have in your life that you try to avoid doing? How would you feel if 5 or 10 years from now you miss out on something great, because you didn’t think long-term? Take the time and find the strength to show yourself some tough love, so that down the road you can enjoy the full, happy life you have always wanted.