The first story that has to be told from my recent trip to Tulum, Mexico is about the nice lady (a.k.a. crazy wacko) I sat next to on the plane.
As therapists, you see people who could use your services everywhere: the kid walking down the street using his crutch on the wrong side, the old man whose family is struggling to get him into the car, or just Aunt Ida chatting away at Thanksgiving dinner about her bunions. Aunt Ida aside, I try not to let my desire to get involved in these people’s lives take over. Aside from all the practical reasons not to get involved, there’s an ethical line that gets crossed when an off-duty healthworker starts injecting his/her opinions into a person’s private life.
While I frequently have to restrain getting involved, this past week’s experience was different… I wanted to run away. As I settled in for the 4-hour flight into Cancun, the lady next to me started telling me how she would be getting up frequently because of her debilitating back pain. I immediately recoiled into defense mode. How could I keep her from finding out I’m a PT? How would I read JOSPT without giving away my secret identity? I am not treating this lady for the next 4 hours, this is my VACATION!!! ….and this patient was clearly CRAZY! Keep it to yourself, lady!
What went on for the next 4 hours was a delicate dance: She would ask me to get her carry-on down from the over-head. I would stash my PT magazines behind safety manuals in the seatback pocket. She would pace in the isles. Other passengers would uneasily wonder why. She would intermittently display her gabapentin bottle on the tray table. I would try to disguise JOSPT while reading by sliding as far to the opposite side of the seat as possible. She would talk on-and-on about her back pain, and I would nod politely.
When it came close to time to land, I thought I had made it through without revealing my secret, but there was one more test. My single serving friend had one more piece of information to make my blood boil. She was looking forward to her quick trip through customs and baggage claim. “You know, if you ask for a wheelchair, the airlines have to give you one.”
So, back in the terminal, as I stood in the hour-long customs line, I looked to the side and saw her cruising by in the wheel chair. She had won again, the crazy bird gets the worm.
Be careful on your travels this Thanksgiving weekend, patients are everywhere. Don’t trust Aunt Ida, I think she’s hiding something.