Holidays are created as a remembrance and reflection of major events in our history. This Independence Day, I am thankful for my freedom. Freedom as a woman, business owner, and American. For in some countries, I would not be allowed to get an education. In some countries, I would not be allowed to own a business. And for that, I am grateful to those who came before me, my ancestors, soldiers, explorers, and physical therapists, who laid the path many years ago so that I can live like I am today in this beautiful, historic city of Charleston, SC.
I am also thankful for the fight. For it was World War I that physical therapy began as a true profession. While I am certainly grateful I am no longer considered a “reconstruction aide” and I have a more dignified title, the work of these *mostly* women explored new questions and thoughts related to the human body that hadn’t been considered before. They started developing splints, gait training, and prosthetics. They began studying biomechanics, physics, and tissue healing and developed protocols for injury recovery. They helped injured soldiers gain new life and mobility, which eventually flooded into the civilian world.
I had the upmost pleasure to meet one of these “pioneer” PTs a few years ago when I was working in the skilled nursing facility in Mt. Pleasant, SC. She was 97 years old, and still in fairly remarkable health! She went to school for physical education, but wanted to be more than a PE teacher. She met someone who was getting a Certificate in Physical Therapy from a school in Chicago – at the time, there were only 2 schools in the whole country that offered this program. So she said, “Well, I thought that would be fun and interesting.” and she went. The entire program was 3 classes. THREE. CLASSES. From there, she joined the Army as a physical therapist. She went to Germany and worked in a clinic during World War II. She worked on several bases throughout her career and helped injured soldiers recover from injuries. She told me how amazing it was to watch our profession progress, and to see all the “fancy things” we have available now.
THIS. WOMAN. Wow! How amazing an experience to get to meet her. I am truly grateful for the experience and appreciative of her work. War is a terrible thing. But I am grateful for the knowledge and science that was gained and is still being researched because of it. Because of war, our prosthetics research has given function to not just soldiers, but hope and life to civilians and children. We have new technology and mobility options for patients with spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injury, and they are now living longer with less complications. We are learning how to recover faster, better, and more efficiently, thanks to the work at military rehabilitation facilities. These things, and many more, continue to improve the lives of people, and that is something to be thankful for.