Every Day is Another Opportunity to Make a Difference!
Shortly after becoming a Physical Therapist, I took a job at Church Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. I was working in a short term rehabilitation department where our patients were hospitalized. Our goal was to provide therapy so they could go home.
That’s when and where I met Ben. Ben was 14 years old and had been in a serious car accident. He had multiple fractures including his pelvis, clavicle and scapula. When I first started to work with Ben he was on bed rest and we were working on some Range of Motion and trying to keep his muscles strong.
I was fresh out of college and hadn’t really worked with a teenager before. Ben was very disinterested and was always upset when I’d come to his room. A lot of patients would get annoyed with Physical Therapy but with Ben it seemed different. He was depressed and constantly agitated.
I would try to make jokes or find ways to start a conversation. I would ask about his family, sports, friends, or school. I couldn’t find a way to get him to open up. I met his parents and tried to get some better insight, but it became clear that they didn’t have answers nor did they want to help.
Ben was progressing with his Physical Therapy. He would do his exercises but he still had no desire to communicate with me. One day I told him that I had seen the new Batman movie and for the first time, I saw a look of interest in his eyes. Finally he began talking and asking questions. All about Batman.
A few days later I brought him a Batman hat. He loved it and I think he could start to see that I was there to help him. More importantly, I think he saw that I had taken an interest in him.
I decided to take things a step further. I went to a costume rental shop and rented the best Batman costume I could find and the next day I show up to his room in full Batman costume. He was ecstatic. He knew it was me and not the real Batman but he went along with it. We had a blast and it was a real breakthrough.
For the remaining weeks Ben was talkative and listened when I would compliment his efforts in therapy. He started to develop confidence and believe in himself. He was soon back to walking and discharged home.
Ben and I would stay in touch. He became interested in talking about school and his achievements. He would be proud of himself when we spoke and I could tell that he was on a much better path. He just needed someone to give him some special attention and give him confidence.
It’s easy to dismiss people with poor attitudes but sometimes it just takes a little effort to break down walls and barriers. This experience served as a lifelong lesson as seeing someone transition because of a single act of kindness is forever memorable.