Advancing Children's Health

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Physical Therapists: Heroes Bringing Hope

Published by , on Oct 29, 2013

Whether it’s helping a 2-week-old recover from a birth related injury or helping a teen get back to football practice, physical therapists are masters of mobility and function. Specializing in everything from strength and balance to pain, injury and development; physical therapists treat a range of issues and help kids get back to doing the things they love most.PT MonthFor one patient with cerebral palsy, the opportunity to work with a physical therapist changed his life. Sandy Timok, BS, PT, PCS, a physical therapist at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, began seeing the quadriplegic patient when he was just 9-months-old, following him through multiple surgeries and various stages of development. Many patients with cerebral palsy have little to no motor skills, making even the simplest tasks difficult, like walking.  By middle school, Sandy had built such a trusting relationship with the patient that she was able to discuss his functional goals with him. An outgoing people-person, the patient opted to use a wheelchair rather than working towards walking so he could focus his energy on friendships and be more interactive. Sandy worked with him through various equipment changes to ensure he was as independent and functional as possible, helping him eventually reach the goal of attending college. Now, he lives on-campus with the help of an aid, and is a strong legislative advocate for people with disabilities.“You really have to look at where their life is going and what they want to achieve, not where you expect them to go,” said Sandy. “They are part of the team and they are empowered to make those decisions.”Sandy’s work as a pediatric physical therapist is nothing short of inspiring. Working with kids from birth to age 21, pediatric physical therapists develop an individualized program for each patient to help them move from their starting point to their goal, whether it be walking for the first time or getting back on the field. Physical therapists can even help with minor posture, balance and strength issues that may not present a problem at the point of therapy, but could affect the child later in life. Pediatric physical therapists need to be well versed on developmental milestones, patterns, and reflexes to distinguish normal and abnormal habits. Working with children also requires high energy to keep them engaged and interested in therapy activities.“When working in pediatrics, you aren’t just treating the child but you’re also working with parents and even caregivers to help them understand the patient’s issues and incorporate them into exercises and equipment training,” says Sandy. “What we do is extremely valuable to the child and their family to help them continue doing the things they love most.”October is National Physical Therapy Month! We’re celebrating by honoring these heroes who’ve dedicated their lives to helping our patients live life to the fullest; a gift many of us take for granted.

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