Local nonprofit directors dedicate their lives to the common good. photos by Keith Borgmeyer Cheryl Howard, Nora Stewart Early Learning Center As a former graduate...
No matter the emotional or physical pain she sees, the sleepless nights she faces, and the days that never slow down, Mary Meyer keeps working, pushing and wanting to do more. Her life revolves around pediatric physical therapy. During her undergraduate studies at The University of Missouri, she had different plans, but pediatric orthopedics presented an opportunity for Mary to step out of her comfort zone, to learn something new, and to think critically about development.
Mary’s role in the treatment of her patients at the University of Missouri’s Children’s Hospital Therapy Center is one that requires motivational coaching and the technical skill required to treat a child’s physical disabilities. She works through the Tiger Intensive therapy program at Children’s Hospital. Occasionally, that requires the use of TheraSuit technology, an innovative treatment method that can help children diagnosed with cerebral palsy, down syndrome, sensory-processing disorder and many other diagnoses. This hospital is one of only three places in Missouri that children have access to this technology.
Mary feels blessed to be able to offer her patients top-of-the-line treatment, but she says the most enjoyable part of her day is when she gets to push kids. She’s pushing them to be their best, to meet their goals, and to achieve what they never thought possible. As she encourages them, she hopes it fuels their desire for success. Often, it’s difficult for her to watch her patients struggle as she stretches them to limits they’ve never reached before, however, she knows that every moment of therapy counts. If she can show them that she has faith in their ability, they can believe in themselves enough to accomplish their goals.
A true sense of urgency follows Mary throughout her day. From start to finish, her day is about helping children with disabilities — through their treatment, comforting calls to family and with her doctoral studies. That is why work comes first and continues to be the driving force of Mary’s passion for education and life. She feels that her career path has allowed her to love her patients and her work in a way much deeper than she ever thought possible.
6 a.m.: When can I get my coffee? Should I head to the gym or get to work early? Work always wins.
7 a.m.: Ok, whom do I need to email today? We’re coming up with a treatment plan for Tyler’s cerebral palsy today. I can’t forget to mention that idea I had when I woke up last night. Coffee. Mary’s drive to work has to be productive. She uses this time to plan out her day and, of course, get her coffee.
8-11 a.m.: First patient of the day – how can I make him believe in himself enough to accomplish his goals? With her first patient, Mary works through the Tiger Intensive Therapy Program. Occasionally this patient will require the use of their innovative TheraSuit equipment.
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Time to send some emails. Do I have time to run and get lunch? Probably not, I’ve got that meeting at 11:30. I’ll type with one hand and eat with the other! Mary’s lunch hour is often used for productivity and not for enjoying a nice meal.
1-4 p.m.: Time for my appointment with Maria. She’s come so far, but I can’t stop pushing her now. Today we’ll both work extra hard. In the afternoon, Mary sees one of her gait
patients. With a team of specialists, she approaches her patient’s needs in technical and personal ways while making sure this child will have everything they need to succeed.
4-5 p.m.: I hope everything is going well with my weekly patients. Time to follow up and see how they’re doing. Her love for her patients and sincere desire to push them beyond the limits they have always faced ensure that Mary will keep up with each patient. She believes in them, and they have to know that. It is important they stay disciplined and focused as they set expectations for themselves, just as Mary does.
5 p.m.: Rest… Mary sits down in her office. For a few moments, she tries to decompress from her long day by catching up with co-workers. She pushes away thoughts of stress and lets herself rest.
5:15 p.m.: First I’ll call Maria’s parents. Then I can call John’s. Then Tyler’s. Have to keep everyone updated. Mary knows that the parents of her patients often struggle with the treatments their children are undergoing. Many move to Columbia to receive this care, so her drive home consists of calls to parents.
6 p.m.: Well, time to study. I have that exam coming up. Many of Mary’s nights involve studying as she works toward her doctorate in physical therapy with a specialty in pediatrics from Rocky Mountain University. She doesn’t mind that she has to study after work. Her busy schedule gives her the adrenaline she needs to keep going.
7 p.m.: Time for some fun! Believe it or not, Mary manages to make time for life outside of physical therapy and studying. She plays on a sand volleyball team, grabs dinner with friends and is involved in Columbia’s Veritas group through The Crossing Church.