Chasing Human Potential: What Brought Me to This Point
When I was in my final clinical rotation in Steamboat Springs, CO, of my final year of physical therapy
school, I had my eyes opened in a way that would change the course of my life.
The aggressive and competitive life I had grown accustomed to, saturated with pushing limits and
exposing myself to new challenges, had been abruptly changed. After "surviving" 4 years of collegiate
soccer without injury, I was currently struggling with a life altering injury. Struggling with severe pain
in my knee, reminded every day of the torn meniscus, grade II tear in my MCL, and once dislocated
knee cap and beginnings of arthritis that had been confirmed on MRI two years previous. I was recommended surgery by an orthopedic surgeon and at least two physical therapists, so I was surprised when the functional manual therapist that I was now training under told me to lie down so he could "fix it". After a couple of manual interventions and intensive instruction on running technique, I found myself for the first time building my running and cycling distances with no knee pain. Zero. No surgery, no injections, no medication, no prescribed "rest." My body then seemed to build and respond to the stress I would introduce with training. With occasional treatment, frequent training, and constant intention I was able to progress from a one mile easy jog to a 100 mile mountain race with approx. 20,000 feet of climbing with no knee symptoms. So often, from patients, family, and friends alike I hear the question "why", and although hard to explain I usually start with this story...
During one of the final weeks of my clinical rotation, I assisted in the treatment of a professional cyclist in her early 30's who had unfortunately had very intensive knee surgery on both legs as a result of a severe skiing accident years before. We were casually discussing the gorgeous weather outside when she mentioned how much she would give to mountain bike just one...more...time, as she was recently told that the outdoor hobbies that wove her life together were now over indefinitely. Later in the conversation I mentioned that I wasn't going to cycle that day for whatever reason, and she stopped me with an intense look and a hand on my arm and said "do it...because you can". It stuck with me, and I have been cursed with that challenge.
Whether concerning physical or mental ability, I feel we have a responsibility to explore the capacity that we have been given.I had felt what it was like to be down, but I was blessed beyond measure to be exposed to some amazing therapists (who seemed at the time more like magicians), using techniques known as Functional Manual Therapy. I witnessed treatments of Olympic athletes to chronic back pain patients, and many in between, being treated effectively in a way that I had not witnessed before. After being exposed I could not turn back, so I pursued this knowledge and completed a residency and certification in this treatment method.I am a firm believer that more is always possible. If it is a minor nagging injury or a life altering disability, often there is undiscovered potential (if not, you can bet I'm still looking for it). If there is a goal that once seemed impossible, why not take a step and just see what happens. Our body is always capable of more than we think it is, and I am still trying to chase human potential.