The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Michele Bender

April 2, 2011

MICHELE M. BENDER | Adventures in therapy

— For the past 10 years, I’ve struggled with a handicap. You’ve heard the saying “Use it or lose it,” referring to strength and fitness. I spent most of last spring and summer stuck in a hospital bed. By August, I was the “poster child” for atrophy.

“You need therapy,” Doc insisted.

An ambulance deposited me at a rehab facility. On any given day, I can be opinionated, outspoken, ornery, and probably a few more O words. However, when I’m sick and frustrated, I can be a major pain in the dupa.

I was a weak and wobbly hazard, prompting the staff to raid the equipment vault and provide me with a bedside commode. High and sturdy, it was the “Cadillac of crappers.”

Even though I’d used them during previous hospitalizations they insisted that I practice until I scored an 8.5 on my “dismount.”

“We’re going to walk down the hallway. Laurie will follow us with your wheelchair,” announced Bill, a therapist.

The hallway was roughly the length of Market Street. It took me three months to conquer it, but I was thrilled when I could navigate it nonstop with my walker. The therapy suite was the size of the War Memorial. 

The large exercise room, filled with weights and machines, had a slippery linoleum floor that scared me to death.

My knuckles turned white when I hobbled along in my gripper socks, clutching my walker.

The suite also featured a kitchen and dining room where, theoretically, we would hone our housekeeping skills, anticipating our homecoming. Fortunately, no one was harmed when I scrambled my egg.

Some walkers have wheels. I successfully avoided those for eight years. I’m not ready for “fuel injection.” Plus, they don’t have brakes. But Bill insisted that I try one. He thought the experiment went well. Pushing my wheeled cart, I felt like a hot dog vendor.

Bill, of course, wasn’t the only therapist. Laurie, Britney, Bobbi, Debbie, Terri, Lee, Aaron and John coached and encouraged me, too.

My road to recovery was long.

I met other folks along the way, and I’ll share more of my adventures next time.

In the meantime, it’s good to be home.

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of  The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.

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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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