Life is based on a series of decisions. Many times, these decisions are the result of how we view or react to a situation. I truly believe all things that occur in life, good and bad, present opportunities. These opportunities are based on how an individual responds to life’s circumstances.
At the age of 39, I started experiencing intense headaches that would put me in bed for days. I developed diplopia (double vision) and my arms and legs would lock up in pain and become weak. I had two small sons (ages four and one) and was unable to take care of them. I became depressed. My condition was misdiagnosed and I was put on a course of antidepressants and other medications I couldn’t pronounce. Finally, a wonderful, kind neurosurgeon took on my case and determined that I had idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (INPH). I refused brain surgery initially. How can I possibly have this condition? This can’t be true? My neurosurgeon would call me. One day, we spent almost an hour on the phone with him. He calmed my fears and answered all my questions. I underwent my first shunt surgery in 2005. This shunt saved my life. However, this condition caused my body to weaken and my muscles to atrophy. Part of my recovery included physical therapy to regain strength and mobility in my arms and legs. Not only did physical therapy restore my weakened body, it also restored my confidence.
Over the next several months and years, I embraced the knowledge I had learned while in therapy and developed my own strengthening and endurance programs. I channeled my passion for fitness into the decision to pursue my group fitness teaching certification. As a nationally certified group fitness instructor, I motivate and help others integrate fitness into their daily lifestyles. Today, I teach a variety of fitness classes a week to a wide range population. Recognizing the need to bring affordable fitness programs to the community, I decided to launch my own series of fitness classes called “Total Body Conditioning” and offer them through community recreation departments. The sold out classes have been running through the recreation department in my town for two years. As a former competitive figure skater, I am also employed as a figure skating coach and learn-to-skate instructor. I teach skating classes to children and adults at various rinks throughout the North Shore. I am the recipient of the a 2010 Coaches Award. Before my surgery, skating again was just a dream.
In April 2012 I suffered a turn of events. The shunt, which had been keeping me alive for eight years, failed. I was home alone and started to slip into a state of unconsciousness. I was rushed into Boston for emergency brain surgery. In the mist of this health crisis, I received my acceptance letter into an accredited Physical Therapy Assistant program. My decision to apply to the Physical Therapy Assistant Program was inspired by my own experiences and challenges. Physical therapy and exercise were the keys to my recovery. Now I wanted to inspire others through movement and rehab. In May 2015, I graduated from the PTA program with a 3.95 GPA. I received a scholarship for my final academic year and I completed clinical rotations in Boston. As a licensed PTA, I currently work in a hospital-based outpatient orthopedic clinic where I treat cases ranging from post CVA to post operative joint replacements. I’m particularly interested in the rehabilitation of head injury and spinal cord injury patients. Due to my condition and experience with rehabilitation as a patient, I have a unique perspective of neurological disorders and the challenges patients face for a cure. In 2013, I was the top third individual fundraiser for the annual Boston Hydrocephalus Association Walk. I participated in the 2014 event as well.
I’m fortunate to have two wonderful teenage sons and a supportive husband. I want my sons to understand and believe that it is possible to overcome obstacles, no matter how challenging they may appear.
I view the challenges I have faced as an avenue for opportunity. As difficult and scary it is to have hydrocephalus, I believe this condition has lead me down a positive path. I am excited to employ my knowledge and experience to help others find their strength and courage, physically and mentally.
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