The First Essay

by Mel Gilden

You may have noticed that I haven't been around much lately. The truth is that I've been seeing many doctors and recovering from their ministrations.

Following last year's back surgery Laurie, my sweetie, drove me from our house to the doctor's office for the occasional check-up and so on. The journey took about an hour, and I would sit next to her squirming the whole time because I could not find a comfortable position in which to sit. I'm still not sure what the problem was—muscle cafard?

At last the back doctor suggested I get physical therapy. I've never been much of an athlete, and the idea of voluntarily going to a gym class was not appealing. But because I was desperate I took his suggestion.

I went into physical therapy dreading it, but soon learned that I had nothing to fear. I actually enjoyed the experience. When I went to junior high and high school, gym was my least favorite class. Many of the gym teachers seemed to be mean on purpose (because it was manly?), and they made fun of anybody who wasn't one of the successful athletes— that would be me. The PT guys, Frank and Kirk, were nice—always joking around and encouraging me and being understanding when exercises did not go exactly the way they were supposed to. Now that I am done with the nine week series, I actually miss the boys and the sessions they presided over.

Why were the PT guys so different from the gym teachers? Does it have anything to do with the fact that I am now an adult, and sort of an old adult at that? Or is it a difference between public school and a private hospital? It could have been any those things or none of them.


      OK, this is Todd and Buzz
from Route 66, but my
PT guys were just as cool.

I went to PT twice a week, and was good about practicing the exercises at home. Early on I didn't seem to be making much progress, but after a while I noticed that I was better at sitting. Soon I didn't need to squirm at all. I was a happy guy.

I still do the PT exercises whenever I can, and a few times a day I walk around the house—I call it doing laps—while lifting a one pound can of beans in each hand. (Actually, each can is only 15 ounces. It just costs as much as a one pound can used to.) Pumping the cans has made it possible for me to hold a telephone to my ear for a conversation that is longer than 30 seconds.

Though my body is not the perfect temple it once was, I generally feel pretty good. Thanks to modern medicine and physical therapy.