3 Things I Learned from Walter Reed Hospital Physical Therapist Adele Levine

Adele Levine has written the wonderful Run, Don’t Walk about her time as a physical therapist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Here are three things I learned from reading it.

  1. “What can you move?” Adele writes that nearly all the victimes come in with a host of problems. Traumatic brain injury, multiple limb loss, PTSD. Name it and she’s probably seen it. But anyone can start by asking, “what can you move?” It’s a way to start and Adele writes, “lying in bed doesn’t rehabilitate anyone.
  2. You have to walk on stubbies before you walk on c-legs. C-legs are amazing. It’s a prosthetic leg that has a microchip in the knee and battery in the shin. It computes the balance of an amputees and regulates the resistance in the knee to facilitate walking. Walking on prosthetics, Adele notes, is really hard. You have to engage more muscles than normal when you’re missing the lower portion of your leg and getting to walk on c-legs is a major help. But, before that you have to walk on stubbies, the shortened version and “if you haven’t mastered the necessary skills in your stubbies fist, it is way more difficult to acquire them when perched on top of knees.” The adage, you have to walk before you can run proves apt when learning to walk again.
  3. Rate your pain. Adele worked daily with soldiers coming home from war and trying to learn how to walk, in between reconstructive surgeries, and a host of psychological roadblocks. It was inspiring to read and made me question my own pain. After a bone marrow donation Adele writes:
When I woke up in the recover room, it was the first thing I thought about. The nurse asked me to rate my pain on a scale between zero and ten, just as we made our patients do at Walter Reed. I said my pain was a one. He said that was impossible. So I revised my pain to a two. I had just had two liters of bone marrow sucked out of my pelvis in a four-hour procedure under general anesthesia. It was definitely uncomfortable, but compared to the patients I was used to visiting in a recovery room thirty-eight miles away, I had no pain at all.

The entire book is good. It shows the human side of war, the parts some people see only occasionally on the news but that some people live. For Adele and it was a non-stop drip, then sprinkling, and then downpour at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

I’m grateful for being able to read this book, you will be too.

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