The physical therapy movement at its best is the result a small cadre of men, and women who refused to coincide all of us, to eternal childhood, or drugged isolation.
Against the advice of the experts, they forged ahead.
I would like to tell you, about the one it what my privilege to call mentor and friend for twenty five years.
Dr. Andrew John Kramer, was a practicing
physical therapist for 70 years.
Born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Nov, 23, 1912, He grew up, caring for a sister with cerebral palsy, at a time when there was
next to nothing known about it.
At the age of 16, the sister passed away, having been set off to a warehouse of a hospital. Andrew Kramer, made a vow, he was going to change that.
There were no organized programs in those days, just informal partnerships. He began, following the great men and women, in and out of medicine of that era, cereal tycoon John Kellogg, massage expert, Frank Lorenz, the creator of hydro therapy, John Eber, Helena Mahoney, high priestess; of Warm Springs
and many others.
Kramer loved and learned from them all. The most important lesson he learned was “there
are no clients, only family.” When you came through his door, he claimed you, your physical strength was developed, but also your worth.
Having gone this journey of discovery, he began full time practice in 1937. His greatest discovery, was the use of brush
technique to measure flexibility, and electrical stimulation to ease pain.
A tinkerer, he never received credit for most of his work But what made him different was his inner spirit. Thrown in jail, because the public thought physical therapy was faith
healing, he treated his captures, and told the tale a thousand times.
His skill was sought out, his clientele, became famous, New jersey Attorney General, Arthur sills, Mormon Prophet David Mac Kay,
the wife of singer Morton Downey, the father of future pop star John Bonjovi, who picked up his instrument out of boredom while waiting for his father.
But over seven decades, what mattered most was his belief that an individual relationship between therapist and client, was as if not more important than technology.
He refused to maintain distance, and denounced those who did. He had particular scorn for a dispassionate therapist. “If you don’t love, you can’t treat” was
his favorite saying.
As a result, he made people trust in themselves. He stood like a rock against
diet, and drug orientated treatments which didn’t develop the whole person.
When no one saw the potential in people, in both body and mind he did. I came to know him as a three year old, with cerebral palsy. He advised me on everything from exercise, to
developing my love of history.
He was one of the few outside my family, I trusted, as a result, I would listen to him, when no one else, could sooth my fear, or shape my efforts.
My friends, to truly unburden yourself is a gift. We as disabled so often must be something else, brave, stoic, calm.
Andrew Kramer, made it possible for all of us, to truly be. A Scoutmaster: Scouting and therapy were the two passions of his life. He once told me I should be buried in my Scout uniform, when I told him it didn’t fit, he barked, “Let it out in the back,
whose going to look at it?”
Serving for three years, and a state president of the New York Therapy Society, and Chairman for 12, he turned his back on that to work out of his home.
Younger voices, didn’t see the need, competent enough, they often refused to pour their inner selves as he had.
Plastic junk replaced, steel braces so lovingly designed. But the “Old Man” went
on. He knew in his heart that the disabled, were not merely equal, vital as that was, but people who had endured the impossible.
We have done that, dear friends and it’s time the world knew it.
His last great plan was a reunion of clients from all over the world. But it was not to be, he left this world, March 12, 2000.
Why have I told this story? Because I am sorrowed to see that so many of us, struggle to carve out a place in this world, and the rehab community, which should be encouraging us, fears intimacy.
The word “intimacy” has just come to mean sex, it is more my friends, far more. Men and women like Andrew Kramer, bled, and
cried and rejoiced, with those they worked with.
I think truly, we can carry on that legacy in our own lives, by reminding the world; that our journey, good and bad needs to be celebrated, not hidden.
Our focus, far more than on a physical cure, should be and is the expressing of life at all levels.
We may not all be, Al Gilberts, but we can dance in our souls, to shout out to this jaded world, there lived a people
who gave joy and hope.
In the words of the late Wendy Wasserstein the greatest playwright of the second half of the last century; “Our task is to rise
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