Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.
Welcome to ADHD.
[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks!]
You’ll notice Olivia Newton-John‘s titanium knee looks nicer than mine
Every now and then, words are said that go straight to the human heart. These are profound, caring, down-to-the-bone words that leave us breathless with their intensity. I myself am hearing just such a thoughtful utterance:
“Do you want me to fix your pigeon-toed feet?”
Those life-changing words are uttered by Tom Zuver, a young physical therapist whose exceptional talents are outdone only by his curious last name.
“I – I don’t understand,” I stammer in response.
“Do you want me to straighten your feet?”
They are straight, says Screen Four, critically evaluating their position on the floor of the physical therapy room.
Maybe he should get his glasses checked, suggests One.
Seeing my confusion, Zuver laughs. Kindly. “Yes, you’re standing correctly. But when you walk, you’re pigeon-toed.”
“Noticed that, did you?”
“I’m a physical therapist. It’s my job.”
Two sighs, It’s like we’re from the Island of Misfit Toys.
“Actually, it’s already been done. When Dr. Foetisch performed the total knee replacement on your right knee, he corrected the alignment of your bones. To get used to the more normal position, your muscles will require stretching and retraining … but your foot will be straight.”
Clever thinking! applauds Six.
“Now if you’ll keep up the therapy exercises, I just need to teach you how to walk properly, rolling off your heel with your toe pointed outward.”
STOP! dramatically shouts Three, reverberating throughout the empty spaces of my cranium. Please don’t do this!
“Why not what?” asks Zuver, unaware of the debate storming in my head.
Because, Three says emphatically, you’ve been this way your whole life. It’s who you are. It’s why you played soccer, it’s why you were a champion swimmer in butterfly.
“Those are weak reasons for avoiding the change.”
Zuver casts a wary eye my way.
OK, then, it’s why you got picked on in elementary school, Twinkletoes. Look at the man it’s made you. You’re like – like a boy named Sue!
Tom stares at me. “You OK, Black?”
“Well, it’s just that … I mean, are both feet going to be straight now?”
Tom laughs. “No, just the one. But we can work now on the improved right foot and then tackle the left whenever you have that knee replaced.”
That’s it! says Six. We’ll just improve one leg at a time. You’ll get used to it slowly.
Five says, One day we’ll be out on roller skates and your right foot won’t kick the left!”
Your skis will stop crossing! shouts Four.
You’ll suck rocks in butterfly, observes One.
“Tough decision,” I mutter. “Big change. But I think I’m ready for it.”
“Great,” says PT Zuver. (The brother of P.T. Barnum? whispers Three.) “While we’re at it, let’s go after that balance problem of yours.”
Deal-breaker! insists Six. What is he, some control freak?
“Actually, Thomas,” I reply, “that would be great. My chiropractor is doing the same thing. With both of you helping me, I might not get stopped by so many police officers wanting to give me breathalyzer tests.”
You’re going at this entirely too fast, interjects One, sounding very unscreenlike in offering a caution. What do you know about this Zuver fellow, anyway?
“I was born in the ’70s,” Tom explains. “I’ve wondered if my folks experimented with marijuana while carrying me but got over it by the time my younger brother showed up.”
Is he alleging he’s brain damaged? queries Five.
“At 16, I volunteered in the nursing home where my mom worked. I’d help the therapist there by setting up electrical stimulation units, which use electricity to move the patients’ muscles for them.
“One day the therapist finishes up early and leaves me with an hour to kill.” Tom pauses, laughs, resumes. “Thought to myself, ‘Hey, I’m always hooking up the e-stim units, testing them to make sure they work. But I do it at low settings. Wonder what it’d feel like on myself? And at high settings?”
Love this guy already, bellows Six.
“I hook myself up. But I attach the electrodes to both arms, unintentionally completing the circuit with my body. Then I turn on the machine. Low power’s not bad, so I throw the switch to high.”
Look! shouts Three. Zuver’s eyes are huge and he’s only remembering what happened!
“The voltage sucked my arms tight against me! Elbows pinned to my side, I’m a teen T-Rex, only able to wave my hands. Even leaning over, I couldn’t reach far enough to switch off the juice! I tried to bite the plug with my teeth. No luck. Finally I hopped to the nearby wall and kicked out the plug!”
Through my laughter, “And you learned from that, then?”
Our hero! scream six screens.
“I created my own low-voltage zapper and walked around school giving students shocks. The vice principal – we called her RoboCop – sneaked up behind me and took it, but then zapped kids, too. Or she did ’til our science teacher spoke up, saying, ‘Y’know, if that were hooked up to a car battery, it would be potentially very dangerous.’
“Suddenly I had a three-day detention! So I gave that stuff up, decided to buckle down, looked into medical science.”
And that, declares Five, is how truly great physical therapists are born.
Postscript: Tom Zuver is my favorite practicing physical therapist. But the all-time favorite – my oldest brother, Mike – quit the field early on. He had the assignment of helping a rather toothless old man walk around a room to keep post-surgery muscles from freezing up.
Advised that the senior citizen is particularly reluctant to apply himself, Mike determines to be the best PT specialist ever and nothing will deter him, not even the man’s constant, imploring lisp of “Sit? Sit?”
“Sir,” says this stalwart young Blackwell buck respectfully but firmly, “you’ve had the surgery, you need the therapy.”
“Gotta sit! Gotta sit!”
Ignoring the wild look in the man’s eyes, bend-but-not-break Blackwell responds, “Let’s keep walking, sir!” and holds ever tighter to the old man, laboring to keep him lifted upright.
Moments later, the old man shudders mightily, then explosively covers himself and Mike with waste. Shocked, Mike surveys the “damage” and looks back up at the patient.
“Tol’ ya,” the old man shrugs, then emphatically lisps again, “Gotta sit!”
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