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St. Maarten Strong

Hey everyone!

So excited to start blogging more now that I have settled (kind of) into the new year! My family and I brought in the new year on a week-long Caribbean cruise that traveled from Port Canaveral (Florida) to St. Maarten –> San Juan, Puerto Rico –> Labadee, Haiti! (there’s a picture of us when we visited Labadee below!) It was an awesome trip and honestly it was so nice to “disconnect” from the world & social media for a few days.

One of the most impactful memories I have from the cruise was at the island of St. Maarten. This past year, Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean islands all of the ones we visited actually. But St. Maarten (just east of Puerto Rico & the US Virgin Islands) was one of the first islands to be hit by Irma. Nevertheless, Royal Caribbean told us that we would still be making our routine stop there despite being hit just months before. As part of the excursions we had signed up for, my family & I took a bus tour around the small island and saw first hand the devastation of the island. There were half sunken sail boats, houses with tarp on the roof, dismantled metal & shipping containers everywhere, and palm trees bent down to the ground around most of the island. I couldn’t imagine what the island had looked like before we got there.

As an island that generates a lot of their revenue from tourists visiting on cruise ships, their faces were beaming with happiness as our ship pulled up to dock- we were one of the first ships to visit the island since the hurricane. I remember watching the news around the time that Irma was beginning to hit the Caribbean and feeling so sad. It was hard to imagine what the island and everyone living on it was going through. Visiting the island was one of the first times in my life where I was able to actually see the damage that a natural disaster had inflicted on a tight knit community, but I was also so amazed by the resiliency of the high-spirited people of St. Maarten. Despite being “kicked down” by the hurricane, everyone on the island was so hopeful that things were going to go back to the way it used to be. They were optimistic, resilient, motivated, kind-hearted, and determined.

As a soon-to-be student in the physical therapy field, I personally think these characteristics are important to embody. I know that I’ll have many challenges and obstacles to overcome when I’m in school. But if I try to implement these characteristics in everything that I do, I’m hopeful I can tackle any problem and find a solution. In 2018 and for the many years to come, I am going to challenge myself (and you!) to try to be the best version of ME that I can be. I will be optimistic when things might not go the way I planned them. I will be resilient when I’m “knocked down” or set back in any situations occurring in my life. I will be motivated in everything I do- from learning to be the best possible future physical therapist to continuing to work on my personal development. I will always be kind-hearted to not only my future patients, but to the strangers around me that I do or don’t interact with every day. I will be determined to push myself in everything I do. Will you?

What are your top 5 characteristics?IMG950427

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Out of all the professions in the world…WHY PT?

Through high school and especially college, I was trying to search for the reason WHY I wanted to go into PT. Yeah, I had a great experience the first time around with my back, but I knew that couldn’t be the sole reason why I wanted to be a physical therapist. There has to be another reason why.

My junior year in high school was one for the books. I had my hardest year academically and ended up getting all A’s both semesters, and also was recruited to play soccer at the Division 1 level at Illinois State University. I was so excited to have been committed to a school that I had high interest in. With PT still in the back of my mind, I wanted to choose a major that interested me and would put me in the best position to be a great applicant for PT school if I decided to go that route. On an unofficial visit with the ISU soccer coaches, I met with Dr. Dale Brown- one of the Exercise Science professors. He took my parents and I through a sample schedule of an Exercise Science student with interest in applying to PT school. Though it seemed pretty intimidating at first (especially knowing I had to take 2 science prerequisite courses in the same semester at some point), I had a great feeling about applying into this major. I fell in love with the top-end facilities at McCormick, the friendly staff and the idea of becoming the best student I could be with the Exercise Science program.

Fast forward to the summer of 2016. The last summer I had as a college undergraduate student. I still didn’t have a definite answer of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to be a personal trainer. I didn’t want to be a group fitness instructor. I didn’t want to be a strength coach. I really liked my anatomy and fitness programming classes. I liked interacting with others. I loved learning about health and disease in the United States and around the world. But I STILL didn’t have an answer as to WHY I wanted to do PT. Ugh.

As an Exercise Science student at ISU, we are required to complete a semester-long internship in the last semester of our undergraduate schooling. The internship could be in a group fitness setting, health and wellness program, cardiac rehab, personal training, strength and conditioning, etc. Basically, it had to be in a setting where you could work with patients/clients directly (and be supervised under and exercise physiologist, strength coach, personal trainer, etc). I ended up choosing cardiac rehab (because I thought, this is the closest thing to PT, right?) AND LOVED IT. I loved every aspect of it. The patients, the rehabilitation journey, the people I worked with, the education of healthy lifestyle choices, the clinical setting, the inpatient setting, taking blood pressures (I’ve probably taken over 700 blood pressures in my life- basically a pro) and the overall process. I could not have asked for a better experience.

I watched a few patients go through their entire cardiac rehabilitation process- from the day after surgery to the final day of outpatient cardiac rehab. I saw patients come to phase II (outpatient cardiac rehab, usually lasts ~14 weeks) cardiac rehab thinking that it wouldn’t benefit them at all and they were only here because their doctor or family member made them come. I talked with patients about their own eating and exercise habits outside of cardiac rehab and came up with a plan of how to improve these habits. I did SO much during this internship (I’ll discuss everything in another post!!) ULTIMATELY, this internship solidified my desire to serve and help others achieve their goal of getting better after such a traumatic and life-changing event. It was amazing to see the progress of the patients I worked with on a daily basis!

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, whether it’s good or bad. I’m so thankful to have learned so much through my internship and can’t wait to share my full experience with you all on another post!

Enjoy the rest of 2017 & stick around with me on my journey as I learn to PT!

 

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My First Exposure to PT

I want to share with you my story of how I first found physical therapy and knew that this is the field I want to be in for the rest of my career.

I was initially exposed to PT when I was a freshman in high school. I played on the freshman basketball team while simultaneously playing on my club soccer team. I LOVED playing both sports! I was in great shape and made so many lifelong friendships through the process. Little did I know, playing these two demanding sports took a toll on my body.

As a freshman, I was overwhelmed with everything. Moving into a bigger school, trying to make it to class on time, and worrying about when I would have time to do homework after basketball and soccer practice. Playing two sports and trying to balance academics led to a L4 and L5 PARS fracture. I kept having constant back pain whenever I would try to do ANYTHING. Not only did the pain impact my performance in basketball and soccer, but I also struggled with doing daily activities. I couldn’t bend over to put my socks on, tie my shoes, or sit for a long period of time. I was heart-broken, frustrated, and confused. I had no idea why I was having so much pain!

I visited a doctor at RUSH hospital in Chicago and was formally diagnosed with a PARS fracture. I couldn’t do any physical activity which meant sitting out at ALL practices and games. As a competitive person, I absolutely hated sitting out, but I knew this was necessary to heal and get back to my normal self again. My doctor recommended I complete physical therapy to build strength and reduce my pain levels.

I went to ATI Physical Therapy and completed almost 3 months of therapy. Megan (I will never forget my therapist’s name!!) took me through a ton of exercises. I vividly remember doing a BUNCH of abdominal exercises (as a PT tech working in the field, I now know why I did them!) and slowly felt my back pain levels go down. I could not believe how Megan was able to get me to do normal daily activities and sports again with no pain. She got me back to playing soccer and I felt like a completely different person. My experience with Megan was literally life changing- I knew I wanted to be a physical therapist from that moment. 

My first exposure to physical therapy fascinated me on so many levels. I couldn’t believe that a few weeks of strengthening and increasing flexibility could reduce my back pain significantly. This experience was “just a spark, but it’s enough to keep me going” (one of my favorite Paramore songs) through my journey of learning to PT 🙂

 

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Hello!

Hi everyone!

Welcome to my first ever blog! I decided to start blogging about my journey to becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy. On this blog, I’ll be writing mostly about my experiences- good and bad!

So… a little more about me! My name is Sara Stankoskey and I’m currently a pre-DPT student applying to schools during the 2017-2018 application cycle. I was a student-athlete on the women’s soccer team at Illinois State University and graduated in May 2017, majoring in Exercise Science. I love playing and watching sports (especially the Chicago Blackhawks), listening to music, going to concerts, cuddling with my dog, and watching Netflix!

I’m excited to share my journey with you all and look forward to Learning to PT 🙂

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