Thoughts from the journey… Excerpts from a day in the life of Sherry McLaughlin


A mountain of inspiration

Sometimes you just meet someone whose story stops you in your tracks. A little over a year ago, I met Daniel.

He came in with complaints of wrist and elbow pain that were making it difficult for him to ski. As I worked on him, he told me of his love of the mountains and being outdoors. The feeling of carving tracks in deep powder. The exhilaration of flying down a mountain. His smile grew as he talked about the times he spent skiing with his twelve-year old son.

He told me all of this as he sat in his wheelchair.

We talked little more and I asked him about the accident that caused his paralysis. "It was an avalanche," he said. He had hiked up a mountain in Romania in 1994 to take some pictures when all of a sudden the ground started moving beneath him. The mountain he so revered was about to toss him over the side of a frozen waterfall and into the icy water. He told me about the people who saved him and carried him to safety. He described his unrelenting pursuit to walk again. And he told me about the day he finally came to realize that his efforts might better be spent on something else.

So, he headed back to the mountains. This time with a monoski and two outriggers and figured out how to once again commune with nature the way he was intended to...only his hands were now also his legs.

I've never wanted to fix wrist pain so badly before in my life.

I could tell you about how we normalized his thoracic rotation in attempt to decrease the myofascial tension in his UE. I could tell you how we improved his mobility and UE strength. I could talk to you about how his scapular malpositioning and the tightness in his pec minor were integral in the ongoing pressures in the carpal tunnel. In the end, he ended up having to have carpal tunnel releases, the compression of the median nerve was so advanced.

But this isn't about what we did for Daniel as much as it is about what he did for us.

Sometimes life throws you curveballs. Lord knows, I've fielded a few of those in my day. And sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men...well, you know how that quote ends. And since I'm on a roll with cliche's, here's one more I heard on a recent episode of a TV show. "When men make plans, God laughs."

God laughs. Maybe not because He thinks our plans are funny, but perhaps because He thinks our plans are too small. Or too timid. Or too superficial.

I thought by now (I'm almost 45), that I would have launched a large, successful and self-sustaining clinic. That I'd be retired and independently wealthy. But if that would have happened, maybe I would have never met Daniel. And I wouldn't still be plugging away trying to figure out the puzzle that is the human body to rid people of their pain problems.

Maybe I would have touched less lives...and witnessed fewer miracles...and learned less. Sometimes in the pursuit of our biggest plans, realizing the need to change course is the biggest blessing of all.

So, I don't have a huge clinic. Instead, I have a small practice where I can see from one end of the building to the other. I have a small staff...about half the size it was 5 years ago. I have to defend a lot of what we do because it is unconventional. And I get to teach it, not to university students, but to community college and high school students. Sometimes the days are longer than I would like and my wallet is flatter than I would like. And surprisingly, I wouldn't change a thing.

Because I get to work with some of the most intelligent people I've ever known. I also get to see miracles almost everyday. I get to meet incredible people from all walks of life. And even though it feels like such a small place and a small thing and we don't always fix every person we meet, the work feels important. Somehow it changes the world. And then it changes us.

I think about Daniel this time of year. I imagine he is hitting the slopes with a huge smile on his face, loving the life he never thought he would have to live. I send up a prayer of thanks for his inspiration and the constant reminder that when you come to a fork in the road, take it. And engage it. And don't look back, except to be thankful for where the journey has taken you.

And I send up a prayer of thanks that MY plans were maybe laughed at by the God of the Universe. Because, I when I stop to think about it, I really love my life.

I look forward sharing news from the MIHP Think Tank in 2012. Happy New Year.

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  1. Sherry great insights, as always. What a blessing we as healthcare workers receive through the gifts that our patients bring to us each day. If we sit quietly & really listen, they teach us to open our minds, learn & experience life through their eyes, love deeper & to become more than we could be through only our own life experiences.

    What an inspiration Daniel is, thank you for sharing. It’s interesting how we can make mountains out of mole hills or avalanches out of common daily occurrences in our minds until we remember to add perspective. Daniel is the reason that being in healthcare is it’s own reward. How many other fields can a person work in & have such a direct connection (hands-on) in teaming with patients to help them to have a better quality of life? That in itself is a miracle.

    On another, but related note, you are turely an inspiration yourself Sherry. A renaissance woman whose love & curiosity for life (& your willingness to share your journey with all of us) educates, challenges & inspires us. We are pushed to not only become better healcare providers, but better human-beings.

  2. Thank you, Mike, for taking the time to respond…and for calling me a renaissance woman. Wow…always wanted to be one of those. I hope you find the reward in the work that you do…sounds like you do. We are some of the lucky ones for sure.

  3. Sherry looking for more posts… I know you are busy, but sharing your experiences enlightens so many people and changes the world! I am mailing a copy of your book to a friend in Ohio (veterinarian), she much like you changes peoples life by simply being herself and being in their world! I love my Heroes!

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