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Walking down a narrow side street in the suburbs of Jerusalem a few months ago, I noticed several pairs of discarded shoes dangling from an electricity wire above me. Usually (I have been reliably informed) it’s a sign of some form of illegal drug ring operating in the area (who knew?). On seeing the shoes strewn across this wire an entirely different thought entered my mind. ‘What a waste!! Those shoes could definitely be put to better use!!’ Then – an idea.
At that time I had just finished a two-year stint working at a non-profit rehabilitation hospital in Jerusalem for adolescents and children. Nearly every child passing through the hospital doors required some form of splint (AFO, KAFO, HKAFO etc.) to maintain, restore or prevent loss of functional range of motion at a particular joint in the lower limb, or to facilitate functional mobility and ambulation.
If you have your own children or have worked for extended periods of time with children, one thing that becomes apparent very quickly is how fast they grow. At this particular institution, each child that required a splint had to have it remeasured regularly to assess whether the splint still fit and was appropriate for use. At the very least, this re-measurement was performed on a yearly basis, sometimes even more frequently depending on each individual case. If the splint was no longer appropriate, the child needed a new one. A different or bigger one. Not only does that mean adjusting to a new and different splint which presents its own, separate challenges (they can be uncomfortable or painful for the child at first) but it would also mean the parents would need to buy new shoes to appropriately fit the larger splint.
Some of the many responsibilities we have as parents are to raise our children in the best we can and to provide all we can for our children. While the desire may be there, in some cases it’s simply not possible. Jerusalem has a diverse community. Like every major city, there are more affluent people and there are less. A vast majority of the children presenting to this hospital fall under the latter. In a large number of cases, buying new shoes on a yearly basis is simply not an option.
At that point, walking down that street, I had already begun a new chapter in my professional life working independently within the community as The Traveling Physio. My new business, as the name suggests, affords me the ability to travel around Jerusalem and provide access to physiotherapy services that people would otherwise not be able to receive – they are unable to leave their house, cant take time off work to make it to a clinic during business hours or any multitude of reasons.
Becoming self-employed, allows a Physiotherapist to choose the type of patient that one dedicates their time and expertise to. My experience and my passion as a physiotherapist in Australia before moving to Israel had been in orthopaedic and sports injuries. While I loved and am thankful for the two years that I learned and grew as a Physiotherapist in the hospital working with children, I felt that it was time for me to return to the area of Physiotherapy that was closest to my heart.
Since officially becoming The Traveling Physio in Jerusalem, I have been fortunate enough to work with various elite and amateur level athletes and sports teams, personal trainers and gyms applying my knowledge to help them reach their goals. As you would know, at roughly 600km (sometimes earlier) on the road, running shoes begin to lose all their supportive qualities and potentially predispose to injury. When I saw these shoes dangling twenty feet above me, I realised that my experience working at the hospital and the network I had developed as The Traveling Physio, provided me with a unique opportunity to help these families out.
I began the process of collecting the ‘old’ shoes these athletes no longer used. I planned to recycle them so that the children and parents in need at the hospital did not have to go out and buy new ones when it was not a financially viable option for them. I posted requests for recyclable shoes on both my Instagram and Facebook accounts to get help from my friends and family. I was blown away by everyone’s generosity. Before I knew it, I was receiving dozens of shoes, in various sizes, from all around the country to help these families out. Within weeks, the storage room at the hospital was full. Without the generosity of all those who contributed recycled shoes, achieving this awesome feat would never have been possible.
When I began the long and often times exhausting journey towards becoming a Physiotherapist, it was the end goal of being able to help people in need that kept me focused and motivated. My professional experiences both in Australia and Israel, in the hospital and working as a Physiotherapist in the wider Jerusalem community, have helped me realise something much more important. As Physiotherapists, we have trained hard to possess the ability to help our clients return to work, return to sport, relieve pain, achieve goals. That’s in the job description. But our work is deeper than that. We are health care providers. True, we help people on a physical level. But it’s more than that. We care beyond the scope of physical healing. We care for those of us who are less fortunate. We care for those of us who are less able. We care for everyone regardless of religion, race or gender. We have great power and great responsibility to help when and how we can. I described my current position earlier as a community Physiotherapist. It’s called a community for a reason. It’s called a community because everyone is connected. Everyone has the ability to contribute. I have been fortunate to have many great experiences in my first ten years as a Physiotherapist and I am grateful for them. However, knowing that through those experiences I have been blessed with the ability to contribute in some way to that community, that we as a collective, have the ability to improve all forms of quality of life, continues to provide a constant personal reminder of the awesome role we play and the degree to which we can impact on the lives of those around us. For that I am truly grateful.
Contact me: Travelingphysiojerusalem@gmail.com