A Debt That Can’t Be Paid

Yesterday marked a change in one of our routines that has become a fixture in our lives: physical therapy. For the last three years, the same physical therapist has come to our home weekly, and sometimes twice a week. Last month, she switched agencies, and in order to follow her, I’ve had to start taking M to therapy at a clinic.

It’s easy. I like the clinic just fine. But, it felt weird to see our pt in a different place. I love the honesty of children because the change was written all over M’s face when we first walked into the clinic. She furrowed her little brow, looked all around the room, and then stared right into our pt’s face. She seemed to be asking, “What are you doing here?”

The change definitely makes our pt’s life easier, and it won’t take long for us to adjust. But, when so much of our lives have been upended, seeing K every week at our home was one constant. It’s strange how important someone can become to you. Sure, she’s helped our kids move, which for J was quite a feat, but it’s so much more than that. She’s anchored me during the rough waters of the last few years: J’s LONG babyhood, my high-risk pregnancy with M, our second NICU stay, and now the adventures M provides. She has so much knowledge of my kids–their personalities, their tendencies, their strengths and weaknesses. I can tell her a story about them, and she gets it. No background needed. No details provided. K just gets it because she has been here with us through it all.

I’ve seen people complain on preemie websites about therapy. I’ve heard moms say it’s not worth it, and I can’t say one way or another for them. But, for my kids and for me, our weekly pt sessions have been a critical part of our NICU recovery, of working our way out of prematurity and into the world.

I know our time with K is winding down. On the way home yesterday I tried to think of how I’ll thank K. What will I say? What can I do?

But, sometimes you just owe a debt to someone that you cannot repay. I’ll just have to hope I can pay it forward to someone else.

Thank You To Our PT

The same physical therapist has been coming to our home weekly–and sometimes twice a week–for almost exactly three years. Three years of opening the door to her smile. Three years of asking her questions. Three years of watching her work with my babies. Three years of chatting with her. Three years of seeking her advice. Three years of her knowing my children better than almost anyone else.

How do you measure that? How do you quantify what she has done for us? Whatever she’s being paid, it should be tripled. And then tripled again.

During dark days and quiet days and lonely days and frustrating days and days on end of no contact with any adult other than my husband, she was a bright spot for me. She was something different to spice the weeks up when J and I were under house arrest and we only saw each other.

How can I explain to someone who hasn’t had a special needs child what it means for someone to be a lifeline for you? What words define what someone means to you when she’s encouraged your child to goals you weren’t sure were possible?

Some days when I miss teaching, when I miss writing, when I miss feeling like I’m making a small difference in the world, I think of people like our pt. Whatever I’ve done to help people is nothing. Nothing. I have been witness to real heroes, and I’m not one of them. I wish I’d excelled at science so I could have been a physical therapist or a NICU nurse. These are the people who on a daily basis affect real change on the world around them.

We are only one family of dozens and dozens our pt helps. My children are just two of hundreds she has helped. I know it must be stressful at times working with babies and children who struggle just to hold objects, roll over, and sit. But, I hope that she can rest her head easy at night knowing that her life’s work is so meaningful.

It isn’t a permanent goodbye yet. We are following our pt to her new job at a clinic, and we’ll hopefully keep seeing her until we move. But, our weeks won’t be quite the same once she’s no longer visiting our home. I will miss her tremendously.

Life with preemies is unexpected. And unexpectedly hard. But also unexpectedly wonderful. I wouldn’t trade all the hard because the good is so good. And it’s people like our pt who have made it so.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, K.