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Standing alone

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” Jo-Lin Health Center resident Carla Massie has flown into walking.

In 1999 Massie, now 51, ruptured two discs in her back and was not only unable to walk, but rendered incapable of even getting out of bed without assistance.

“I had been in physical therapy a lot at different places but it never seemed to work,” Massie said. “This time it just seems to be working.”

She gives most of the credit to the staff at Jo-Lin, particularly certified occupational therapy assistant Tonya Miranda and physical therapy assistant Kayla Tolbert.

“I think it working now because I do therapy three days a week and (Miranda and Tolbert) motivate me to do things. They are like my family and that means a lot to me because I don’t have much family alive.”

Massie started working with a standing frame, weights, bed mobility device, parallel bars and a Sci-Fit machine on Jan. 16. At that time the apogee of her ability was standing using the parallel bars with the aid of three and sometimes four people. For the first time in 15 years, on Feb. 28, Massie walked 20 feet with only the aid of a walker.

“We just keep motivating her,” Miranda said. “She has come very far. She no longer needs a lift to get out of bed.”

Tolbert said a physical therapist assesses and sets goals for each patient.

“We didn’t initially have a goal for her to walk,” Tolbert said. “One day she told us she could stand up and we just took it from there.”

In addition to regaining her ability to walk Massie has lost 28 pounds in the past 12 weeks. Miranda said therapy, regular exercise, a better diet and an overall increased activity level all can be attributed to Massie’s weight loss.

For Massie, however, the biggest benefit so far in walking again was being able to attend her aunt’s funeral. Her inability to walk kept her from being able to properly communicate with her family in the past.

“Going to that funeral was a big deal,” she said. “Home health professionals talked to my family for me and it didn’t always work out too good and my aunt and I were really close. I’m glad I got to go and see her one last time and I got to see a lot more of my family there, too.”

Massie knows it is going to take more hard work, dedication and encouragement to reach her ultimate goal of walking unassisted. She said she was making progress in years past but therapy, and her will to walk, stopped when her Medicaid ran out.

She once couldn’t stand and is now walking; she once couldn’t roll over in bed and now rises on her own. In the past three months Massie has found a home at Jo-Lin, rediscovered the joys of her family —both blood relatives and the center’s staff — but even all that can’t trump what she said is her main motivating factor: “I just want to walk.”