Alyssa Montanaro - Physical Therapy in Romania
"One hundred percent of people die." I'll be honest, when this was the phrase that welcomed me into the Hospice on my first day of work, I was pretty nervous. I had done a little research about the hospice, as it is one of two primary placements given to Physical Therapy volunteers. It is a non-profit organization, supported by the UK that ran on the mantra that they step in to help when all others step out.
My Physical Therapy placement
It was a place for sick adults to come for care and attention, but also a place where children with disorders and disabilities could come to spend a week of respite care or play with other children like themselves at the day center. Having grown up around the disabled community of my hometown in Delaware, I didn't think I'd have a hard time working with kids who were sick. Although when it was put so bluntly to me that these kids were dying, I wasn't so sure.
It took me less than a day to fall in love with the hospice. As a Physical Therapy volunteer, I spent a good chunk of time learning the stretching routines of the kids. I did a lot of shadowing and watching, but also participated in treatment almost every day; performing the exercises on the kids, playing their games of hold your breath in order to strengthen their lungs, feeling the crooked spines of our patients with scoliosis, and even treating my own patients when the physical therapist was busy with someone else.
Spending time with the children
I also spent a lot of my time with the children in the day center; taking them to the park, playing "război" (the card game war), and generally making a fool of myself while trying to speak Romanian. It amazed me how care free and happy the kids were. It didn't matter that they were stuck in a wheelchair, that their heart will eventually give up and stop pumping, or that their parents were treating them poorly. All that mattered was, at the hospice, they were just kids; kids who wanted to play and laugh and feel good.
During my two months in Romania my catch phrase became "super good." I always asked people I met how they were, and would try to get them to elaborate if they were very or super good. My favorite Romanian phrase, “super bine,” in English, means super good, and would always be accompanied by a thumbs up gesture. I would be giggled at for my enthusiasm when saying “super bine” and it stuck. At the hospice, day after day I was met by kids giving me a ‘thumbs up’ and saying that they felt "super good."
My “super good” time in Romania
As simple as it sounds that basically describes my time at the Hospice - super good. In one sense, it was great because I learned so much about physical therapy, disorders, and how we rehabilitate them, and these two months left me with no doubt that I want a future career in physical therapy. On the other hand, the time I spent with the children, the smiles we shared, the games we played, the silly pictures we took, and even the arm wrestling matches we had (great for strengthening!) all changed me for the better.
I now have a greater appreciation for life and the mindset of being a child. Even though my introduction to the hospice was correct in saying that one hundred percent of us will die, for now, it's all about embracing the moment, sharing a smile, having fun, and feeling super good.