Forgive me if you've heard this story before. I need to tell it again.
When I was in high school, I had a little bit of a hard time deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up. For a few minutes, I considered majoring in Communications. But I knew I wanted to be in the medical field. But the commitment to schooling and student loans that went along with medical school intimidated me. I was considering physical therapy and respiratory therapy.
Somewhere along this time, my next door neighbor was in a terrible car accident. He was thrown through the window of his truck and broke his neck. He was paralyzed. This was a hard thing to accept. He had been in my brother's class and I remember waiting at the bus stop with him.
As one can imagine, becoming paralyzed in your early 20's can be devastating. It certainly was for this young man. His step-mother, a nurse, used to give me my allergy shots, so we'd talk about things every week when I was over there. I knew that he was downstairs recovering, and I only went upstairs in the house. I didn't know whether to bring Eric up or not. I was a scared teenager and wasn't sure what to say in this sort of situation. One day, I asked how he was doing. His step-mother said, "He's had a really hard time. He didn't want to go on, but his physical therapist has been so great and gotten him moving again. She's taught him so much and I think she gave him his life back."
I left the house last night with the decision made. I wanted to be a physical therapist because I wanted to have that impact. I wanted to help people like Eric was helped.
And so a physical therapist I became. I've worked in rehab with people with spinal cord injuries, but I found my true calling in pediatrics. But still, it's all because of Eric.
A few years back, Eric's step-brother died. At the wake, I was able to tell him that story. I was also able to tell him, to his face, that every person I help through physical therapy, is a direct result of him. That he has helped those people. That made us both cry.
Tonight, I'm crying again, as I've learned of Eric's passing. He was too young to be paralyzed in his early 20's and too young to die in his early 40's.
Thank you for giving me direction. And for all the patients I've had in the last fifteen years, and will have in the next fifteen years, thank you. I hope that I can make a difference in their lives in your honor.
Rest in peace, Eric.