January 28, 2015

This evening, as I was wondering whether I was going to have to use my “emergency giveaway idea,” which I’m saving for a really bad day, an angel showed up on our doorstep, carrying a folding massage table and a mat. David’s physical therapist Jill was here to give him his weekly PT session. She usually comes on Friday afternoons, but they had rescheduled because she will be flying to snowy New York on Friday. As she started to work with David on his exercises, my mind went to work.

Jill is a very talented physical therapist who specializes in people with neurological conditions, which is what my husband suffers from. He has adrenomyeloneuropathy (AMN), a degenerative neurological disorder that affects his legs. It is hereditary in his and one other family in the United States, and for the last 20 years it has slowly been numbing his legs, making it harder and harder for him to walk. When I first met him, he still walked fairly well, but would tire easily. Now, he has to walk with a cane, and we know that it’s just a matter of time before he will be using a wheelchair. Pilates has helped strengthen his core so that now his back doesn’t seize up from the strain of trying to walk, but his sessions with Jill have been transformative for David. Not just because she is gorgeous, smart and a great conversationalist on current affairs and films – two of David’s favorite topics – but also because she really thinks hard about how David’s body works and doesn’t work. This summer, before we traveled to Turkey, a trip that was making us nervous in part because of David’s condition, she made an ingenious suggestion. Instead of a cane, David should walk with two hiking sticks. This would give him more support and stability on unfamiliar terrain and it would be better for his back. David tested it out in our house, and she was right. He stood up much straighter and looked much stronger. Thanks to this idea, David was able to walk along cobble-stoned streets, slippery mosque courtyards and on the rubble of the ruins of Ephesus. Since that trip, he has been using the hiking sticks to get around here too.

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Now, I wasn’t about to give Jill something relating to physical therapy (and I’d already given away my spare yoga mat!). I wanted to give her something pretty but also useful. I’d noticed that like me, she wears mostly monochromes, and she was heading to New York… I dove into one of my drawers where I found my back-up black shawl. I have one that I wear all the time, so it this one was getting no attention. It seemed perfect for her – a gift to protect her from the cold in New York, just as her thoughtful physical therapy has helped David feel safer physically as he navigates himself around the increasingly challenging landscape of his life.

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