SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Down and out, our hero finds himself in a tough spot. In order to recover from their injuries and win the day, they do sit ups, chop wood and run miles uphill through the snow. Told in a 30 second montage, the movie then moves onto the next scene.
In reality, it takes days, weeks or sometimes even longer, requiring grit and determination to steadily march through the physical recovery process after an injury.
That journey isn’t taken alone. The team at the 375th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Physical Therapy Clinic know that it takes a personalized plan for each patient filled with motivation, recovery goals, and hard work to reach that point.
“We’re coaches, we’re motivators, and we work to inspire patients,” said Maj. Nathan Howarth, 375th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron physical performance flight commander. “We let them know that we’ve got a plan.”
During an initial assessment, a physical therapist will work with the patient to establish a physical baseline and treatment plan that is their roadmap through their recovery journey.
“A lot of our Airmen are also parents, and they want to play outside with their kids,” said Howarth. “They want to go out and throw the ball. They’re also Airmen. They want to load missiles. They want to fly planes, and maybe they’re not capable of doing that on that initial evaluation date. Our job is to get them there.”
Once a treatment plan is established and discussed, the plan is handed to physical therapy technicians to begin the next step in the recovery process.
Each treatment plan is tailored to the patient for their individual physical capabilities and discussed with the team. Both therapist and technician are constantly working behind the scenes each day to complete patient assessments and after action reports to improve each individual patient.
“I always say every patient is different, because they will handle an exercise very differently from another patient,” said Senior Airman Gabrielle Rose, 375th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron physical therapy technician. “Whether it might seem easy for one patient, or extremely difficult for another, it also depends on the level of injury and if they can handle pain well.”
Color coded resistance bands of different strengths dangle from pieces of exercise equipment. Racks of exercise balls line the walls like a car mechanic and their walls of drills and wrenches. Physical therapy technicians are armed with these tools and an encyclopedia worth of exercises to deliver the utmost care that is required for their patients.
When working with a patient after a traumatic injury or surgery, they are often rebuilding a patient’s physical range of motion, mobility or strength from limited levels.
Rose explains how they begin to rebuild each patient when they come into the clinic, in more ways than one.
“They’re not in the highest of spirits and that’s perfectly fine,” said Rose.
After hours of stretching, strengthening and sweating - a subtle moment emerges between technician and patient.
“The way that I’m able to overcome that is when they start seeing their progress,” said Rose. “Especially when I’m sitting there and they start smiling because they see their progress.”
Behind each Airman’s recovery journey is a dedicated team working with each patient through every stumble, grimace, and bead of sweat to get them healthy and back to executing the mission.