It all starts with baby steps.
Baby steps, with arm-waving balance and shaky testing of foot on floor. You held onto the fingers of someone bigger and more experienced at that sort of thing, one foot in front of the other before you finally got the hang of it all.
You probably don’t remember your first steps — unless it’s your second chance to learn how to make them. In the new book “Run, Don’t Walk” by Adele Levine, P.T. (c.2014, Avery, $26, 278 pages), you’ll see how that can happen.
The call came at 0600. Sure that someone was dead (isn’t it always the case with calls like that?) Adele Levine answered the phone and learned that she was being granted an interview for a job as a physical therapist in the amputee clinic at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Levine had gone to PT school because of “several depressing rounds of unemployment.” PT had never been her “calling,” and she didn’t have big plans, other than to find a job close to her apartment. She figured that Walter Reed would be a temporary gig.
As it turned out, she loved the amputee clinic, and stayed for several years.
Surrounded by glass walls “The Fishbowl” was complete chaos, a “nonstop party” with visitors, cookies, and bent rules. Double- and triple-amputees worked with therapists to learn to be ambulatory with new prosthetic devices, and other patients hung around as support. Because of the glass, visitors could see what went on but Levine says that the soldiers barely noticed. They were too busy meeting new challenges.
Sometimes, the challenges were Levine’s.
Patients occasionally didn’t cooperate with their treatment, and needed warnings, encouragement, or just more understanding. Others really didn’t want to get better, finding the role of victim more appealing. Like most of her co-workers, Levine tried to create unusual ways to keep everyone — staff and patients alike — occupied, to keep them working on getting better, to keep them healthy in mind and body.
They did this, though personality clashes. They did it, while the injured never stopped coming. And they did it, though their clinic was closing in less than a year…
Paper cuts. They’re the worst, but I promise you that you’ll never whine about trifles like that again, once you’ve read “Run, Don’t Walk.”
With a sense of irony, a dose of humor, and beaming pride, author Adele Levine gives readers entertainment and lessons that are both sweet and sad. Her anecdotes are peopled by soldiers whose lives have been forever altered, therapists who show them that those lives aren’t over yet, and officers who offer support to both sides. This isn’t necessarily some sunny, feel-good book, though: Levine is plain about pain, roadside bombs, f-bombs, frustrations, injury and death.
This is one of those true stories that, when you’re done reading, you’ll wish you could read it again for the first time. And how could you resist a book like that?
Really — you can’t, so “Run, Don’t Walk” is a book you should take steps to find.
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.