• Dr. Erik Nassif PT, Cert. MDT

Turning Adversity into Opportunity

We have all had times in our lives where adversity strikes, often when we least expect it. Some instances are more significant than others such as the death of a loved one or another life-altering event. Other events can be less stressful, but can still have profound effects. No matter the event or situation, it is often how we respond that plays a large role in how we move forward in life.

The point in life where adversity first hit me was over 24 years-ago one day in January, 1994. It was a pleasant afternoon, after a morning hockey game, that my friend and I decided to sled behind my house. This hill was a popular place that all of the kids in my neighborhood enjoyed to go sledding. I was familiar with this hill and had sled down it countless times. This January afternoon would prove pivotal in my life, especially as time passed.

After a few runs, my friend and I were on the sled together as we hit a jump and went airborne. During this jump my left leg somehow moved out and under the sled. As we landed, with my leg pinned under the sled, I felt excruciating pain in my left ankle. I was in agony, unable to place weight through my leg. Using the sled, my friend then dragged me out of the woods to my house. At the emergency room, it was confirmed that I had a fractured ankle and that the fracture was so great, that surgery was required. For an 11 year-old boy that played multiple sports, this was heartbreaking. I knew my hockey season was over. What I did not know at the time was that this adverse event would turn into a positive experience, which would lead me to a career in physical therapy.

Once I underwent surgery and the cast was removed 7-8 weeks later, I had no strength, had very little motion in the ankle and walked with a severe limp. The doctor saw me at a follow-up visit and prescribed physical therapy to improve my strength, range of motion and overall function. It was now early spring and I needed to not only walk properly, but run and be ready for the upcoming baseball season. The concept of physical therapy was foreign to me. I was scared, anxious and just hesitant to begin treatment for fear of the unknown. However, what transpired during treatment changed my life forever.

I began treatment working first on getting the movement or range of motion back in my ankle with exercises at the clinic and at home. The physical therapist also stretched my ankle beyond what I could do alone. The next step was to strengthen my ankle. Once I grew stronger, I then began to run, first slowly, but then gradually increased my speed. During the course of treatment I enjoyed seeing my progress, working with my therapist and having the camaraderie with other patients going through similar situations. I had such a positive experience that I knew that in the future I wanted to do this. I wanted to work in physical therapy and I wanted to be a physical therapist!

This is one example how when adversity strikes, you can turn it into an opportunity. Now, not all physical injuries will result in someone finding a career, but if you do become injured, make the most of it. Look at it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself or others. Pick up a hobby, learn a new skill or spend more time with friends and family as you rehabilitate. Turn something negative into something positive. You never know how one single event in your life can change your life forever, so make the most of it!

Dr. Erik Nassif, PT, Cert. MDT

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