A patient is screaming in agony as his knee is arched toward his body to further break up scar tissue and give him the privilege to walk again. This was my first day of my interning experience at Towson Orthopedics Association (TOA). The scene was frightening and eye-opening, not only to the physical demand of therapy, but also the mental toll it takes on the body. I chose to intern at TOA because I am interested in pursuing a career in the medical field of physical therapy. I came in contact with one of the physical therapists, Brett Wiegrefe, MPT by a simple email that propelled a successful relationship and internship throughout the past few months. The staff was very open to allowing me to communicate with patients and asking relevant questions applicable to my internship journals. Their assistance and compliance with my questions heightened my experience at TOA by providing a fun and engaging learning environment.
Being a three sport athlete, balancing schoolwork, and finding time to intern became troublesome. In between practices, I would have to squeeze in a few hours per day to keep up with my weekly logs . Any slot in my sports schedule that was free was dedicated to coming into TOA and observing the daily responsibilities and tasks of a physical therapist. Logging almost 80 hours I have gained an appreciation for the work that physical therapists perform and the challenges of each patient.
A “simple” knee replacement
Within those 80 hours, I was able to interview patients and record their personal experiences at TOA. There has been a patient that I have known since I first started interning. He is an older gentleman that is recovering from a total left knee replacement. He granted me permission to share his story and log it in my journals. His journey began with a “simple” knee replacement. That following week after surgery they discovered several blood clots in his knee that required extra attention from the doctors. His treatment and physical therapy was delayed three more weeks. This caused major swelling and would delay his full recovery for months. When physical therapist Brett Wiegrefe had his first session with the man, barely any pressure could be applied to the patient’s knee.
After several months of work, the patient’s flexibility has improved exponentially since his first visit. He regained the joy of being able to walk again but, unfortunately, knee replacement therapy is considered the most painful region to rehabilitate. He screams in agony when Brett presses against his leg not to hurt the patient, but to break up any scar tissue inhibiting movements such as walking. I am glad to witness and experience the pain with this gentlemen as I consider him a friend that I look forward to seeing on a weekly basis.
Knee rehabilitation is common among many older patients as they suffer from osteoporosis and arthritis. The most common in patients is ACL tears and Total Knee Replacements.
This interning experience revealed another aspect of physical therapy that I never knew about: the mental side of physical therapy. Also every single patient’s case is specifically unique to their body. Each patient must be treated exclusively in order for a successful and speedy recovery.
Aside from the medical experience gained from the 80 hours of interning, I developed professional social skills that can be applied in any social situation. Almost everyday I had a brief conversation with new patients about their condition. After each new patient I talked to, I figured out what questions were most effective. I also learned when it was appropriate to ask for information.
A piece of advice: Avoid senioritis
Throughout the internship, I was constantly occupied by something to observe or a patient to talk to. You have to put yourself out there and speak up or the internship will be boring and drag out when the end of the year comes around. I highly suggest that students put in the early work and gain as many hours as possible before you become crunched for time. When the spring comes around and you are drudging through those last few months of your senior year, your motivation is drained (for some since your junior or sophomore year of high school). Like most senior year Biomed projects, they are very labor intensive and require hours of work. Pick an interesting topic that you will stick with and it will constantly keep you active on your project. Senioritis will come and staying on top of end-of-year projects will relieve any excessive stress towards your approaching graduation.