SOUTH FLORIDA REVIEW BLOG
South Florida's Source For Local Happenings
SOUTH FLORIDA REVIEW BLOG
South Florida's Source For Local Happenings
Marsha: We looked into Neuro because there weren’t many wheelchair accessible facilities for people to go for neurological rehabilitation after they are done with therapy. People were getting discharged from the hospital within twenty-eight days and are sent to basic rehab for a short period of time.
Guy: At the time I was just starting out the only other full facility available for further intense physical therapy was in California. After looking into it I saw that there weren’t places in Broward that were offering advanced rehab. For example, after working with an individual who had had a stroke, we would discharge them after a short period of time. This individual could greatly benefit from more therapy, but insurance wouldn’t cover it.
So, I did my research and began going to people’s houses for home visit physical therapy treatments. Then about two to three years after that, I opened my Pembroke Pines Physical Therapy Facility in November 2012. This was after fighting with about seven banks for a loan. I opened a small physical therapy center on Sheridan and 196th Street. I grew from there. Although anybody could visit my rehabilitation facility, the focus would be more on spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury, Cerebral Palsy or any kind of neurological issue.
The neurological issue could be anything. Someone with a tumor, a gunshot wound, car accident survivor, or simply someone born with neurological limitations. The focus was and still is: to get the patient out of the chair because research shows that if you do intense exercise, it helps you regain more function as opposed to someone who remains stationary. A lot of the people who came to me had been told by medical officials that they would never be able to do certain things. One of my patients was a man who had been given a two percent chance of ever walking again. I saw that as a two percent chance to walk again. Despite the gentleman’s doubt, a year later he was walking. It wasn’t perfect walking – but it was better than two percent.
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Interviewer: What makes you passionate about what you do?
Guy: To me it’s like a painter with a blank canvas. Anybody who walks through that door usually doesn’t have much. So, it’s my job to figure out how to get this person as strong as possible or teach them how to go back to normal walking. As a therapist, I feel I have all the knowledge in the world. I can teach according to the books. I know what the muscles do, the brain does, the spinal cord does – but can I use all this knowledge, based on what I know about science, physics and gravity – can I take all this stuff together and apply it in teaching you how to walk again?
The answer is yes – but, there’s always a “but”. One is – you have to have money. Two – you have to be consistent. Usually people have the consistency but not the money. We don’t charge an arm and a leg like other facilities. If you go to a hospital, locomotive training in some hospitals charge $1000 an hour (they usually spend an hour and a half at least four days a week). So, imagine if you want to walk again! Hey, listen if you want to walk again, you will find a way. People will do fundraisers if they want to walk again.
To start your own business, there is a fear factor. I asked myself many times “do I really want to do this?”
Marsha: One of the things we talked about was just the need for it. He more than I encountered the same story, where people would complain “Well we are no longer patients – this is it, now what?” More and more people wanted to know what was next after being discharged from the hospital.
Guy: There was a void in nature.
Interviewer: And you said, “I can create that”!
Guy and Marsha: Yeah!
Guy: I could create a place where somebody could get their intense therapy just like they would at a hospital.
Marsha: That’s kind of the basics. A lot of the things that we do, you don’t learn in school. In school we’re taught the basics. So we have the basics and then if you see the specific need, then you can kind of tailor your service based on your education.
Guy: So I got my Doctorate in Neurorecovery. As I saw a need, I wanted to educate myself. The other thing I did too was, I went to that place in California because they were offering classes. I learned their techniques. I said “this is what physical therapy should be doing, but we’re not because of restrictions”. One of the restrictions is from insurance. When you do an evaluation on someone you have to use an outcome measure. If the insurance gives you twelve visits and by the end of the visits, you should reach the outcome measure. You do a test.
Marsha: They just want to measure. They say “you say this is happening, where is your proof”?
Guy: So if you’ve had traumatic brain injury, that outcome measure doesn’t fit. If you have twelve visits a year, by the time I teach you how to sit it will take you three months.
Interviewer: What fascinates you about your work?
Guy: it’s the challenge. I can’t do the same thing all the time. So when somebody comes to me, I have to be creative – think outside the box.
Marsha: Also, the results. Our friend who walked across the graduation stage.
Guy: That was the craziest feeling. Imagine being in front of 8000 people and you don’t hear any of them. You don’t hear any of it. When we watched the video afterwards, we realized people were screaming. It was like me and him were in this room alone – just like that. We didn’t hear anything.
Continued...I said “Sean are you ready?” and he said he was ready. I was like “it’s just me and you man!”. We focused on the walking. This is the craziest part, two days before that for some reason, his leg would not move. I was like “Oh shoot! Should we cancel this thing?” Because we usually practice with the gown and everything. He was like, “Dude, I’m not feeling my legs”. In the last minute, I said, “we’re just going to shoot for it!”
We usually warm up, do some stretches. But that day we just cold-turkey-ed it! It happened magically. I don’t know what it was, but he walked better than he practiced! Everything that we worked on for a year and a half – it worked perfect!
Interviewer: What a moment!
Guy: That’s the thing! In my career, I’ve been in PT for ten or eleven years now. I’ve made three people walk! Completely from zero. I always ask, “can I get him to normal again?” Because science shows that it’s there. We just never have the patience to do it.
Interviewer: Going back, what got you into Physical Therapy in the first place?
Guy: When I was in college I played football; I was a linebacker and I injured my ankle. I was running on a blitz, the lineman fell on my ankle and I twisted it. I spent four or five hours with a bunch of physical therapists. While observing how they cared for me, I thought that what they were doing was pretty cool because I was into health. Well, all football players are into health. That’s their major – they usually take easy subjects. So I spent a lot of time with physical therapists and learning what they do. Overtime, I learned how to tape peoples’ ankles because I saw how they did it so many times. Football season, I went back.
My second encounter was: I had one class that needed you to go do an observation. Well, I didn't have a car. Most places like hospitals or whatever – either you take a bus or train. I was in New Jersey. There was a school next to my campus for impaired children. I went over and asked them if they’d let me do some observation. They said “Yeah, sure!”. Because I was a big guy, I ended up with a physical therapist again. So as I was working with the kids, she showed me how to stretch them and how to do basic things; nothing crazy. We did a lot of repetitive things like playing with play-dough. I then realized you need to be really patient to work as a physical therapist, especially working with impaired children. These are kids born with developmental issues.
The physical therapist I was working with ended up hiring me because the parents would ask her to come to their house to do the same thing, so she would send me to their house. I would do mostly stretching with them. Then I graduated. Shortly after, my grandmother got sick. I remembered all the stuff they did with me during physical therapy, so I started doing that stuff with her like walking, standing – basically get her moving. I realized how important it was to move as an elderly person.
Then I got a job in Englewood, New Jersey after I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Health. I started teaching kids in High School about sexual education (STDs, talked about drugs, teen pregnancy and stuff like that). This was a cool job but it wasn’t enough. On a trip to Florida in 1999, I realized that I really liked it here because the weather was really nice. When I went back home, I asked myself what I was going to do next. I know physical therapy, so I went online and searched for “physical therapy Florida” and Nova came up. I applied to Nova, got in and moved. That was it! Graduated from Nova 2003 and I’ve been working ever since.
Interviewer: What was the toughest thing you went through when opening your business?
There are a couple of them. The first one was, I opened as a part time because I wanted to keep my other job due to the benefits. But my boss found out that I had this part time business. She said, “Guy you have two options: either you quit the business or retire from Memorial”. She told me that I have three months to think about it. I said to myself “Three months to suck it up and get as many clients as I can and keep doing my own thing”.
At that time, I think Milita (the lady I talked about in the beginning – my client) posted an ad on a newspaper about a grand opening. I had already been working so hard for the past five years on my business, it was too late to turn back. A week later I got called back into the office. She said, “I noticed you were not going to close your business, which I understand. You’ve got to sign this paper.” That was in May or March of 2013. My back was against the wall. I had already gotten a loan to open this thing, so everything was running. I was doing three days a week over there and two days a week at my place. So, I signed it and left. Back against the wall, one kid and a wife – the only thing that wasn’t in it was my ankle. That was a hard decision. Now when I look back, I’m glad I did it. You have nothing but to go on from there. I had to make this work for me. I did a lot of research and bettered myself.
January 2013, I had only one client, a lease, equipment lease, all this other stuff AND an American Express bill that was over my head. I had to just grind, and little by little people just started coming in. The first six months were hard. It’s funny – when you have faith, you don’t know what’s going to happen but you know SOMETHING’s going to happen. I blocked all the negative stuff out. A lot of people tell you it’s not going to work. I’m the type of person – once I’m in, I’m all the way in!
Most of the stuff I do is risky because if there’s no risk, there’s no reward. You see that guy standing there? He’s a quad, meaning he’s only supposed to have head movement, shoulder movement and bicep movement. But he got stronger, so he’s able to move more. You can’t do that in traditional rehab. According to the medical field, you are unable to do that. I remember a time I worked for the hospital and there was this kid who needed therapy. I put him on a bike. If you put someone on a bike and make them move their leg, eventually they’ll learn about to do it. Muscle memory. I got yelled at for doing that – thinking outside the box. You have to have a lot of patience.
The first six months is crucial. Motivation is key. I tell them “you’re not going to see anything for about six months to a year”. Sometimes I share my story about coming from Haiti, the hardships and having no money. I’m honest with my clients. I tell them, “you’re going to spend a lot of money here and you’re going to be frustrated, but you’ve got to push through it and be consistent.” I usually compare myself to hip hop artists (because I like hip hop music). If you look at their story, they usually go through a bunch of struggles and all of a sudden one big victory. They’re on top of the world now.
Interviewer: How old were you when you came from Haiti?
I was fourteen years old in 1986 with my grandma. My dad and other family members were already living in Princeton, New Jersey. A different scenery, fitting into middle and high school was kind of hard. Middle school was kind of touch because it was an “all white” school and I didn’t speak the language. I used to be called names. I spent a lot of time in the gym. I went from being a skinny kid to a beefed-up kid. I had a job as a bus boy so the Chef hooked me up with good food. After high school, I used to spend about six hours in the gym pumping weights. I didn’t talk to anybody. I played soccer in Haiti, but when I came to the U.S., I was introduced to Football in High school. The Coach came to me and I was given an oval “thing” to carry all summer with the instructions, “if you see anybody else carrying this thing, hit him as hard as you can”. I was already frustrated because of how I was being treated so I would destroy whoever had the ball. I became a linebacker. I almost broke my neck during this time, but because I was lifting a lot of weights, I healed. After that, I went to Monte Claire State in New Jersey where I injured my ankle.
Interviewer: Why should customers try you first?
If somebody comes to me first, they won’t go to anybody else because they will see my passion, my knowledge, my experience and that I am a hands-on person. A lot of people that come see me only want to work with me. I’m honest, I don’t give you a funny story and even though I want your business, I’m upfront about the process – it’s not going to be easy. You’ll know right away that I’m serious about getting you better. That’s what I’m about. I’m not going to give you a massage or ultrasound, but I’m going to make you work. If you want it bad enough, you’ll stay right here!
Interviewer: What’s the number one way you bring in customers?
Guy: Word of mouth and Instagram. The videos that we put out bring us a lot of traffic. Also on Facebook. We had someone from Dominican Republic and another from Colombia who’ve reached out wanting our services. I’ve even been asked to do an online class. We always go outside the box. Two things that I’ve learned One - You’ve got to break down the task and two – you’ve got to learn how to put it together.
What are your short-term goals, six months to a year?
Let’s go with a year. I want to see more staff in here. Finding the right person. Expanding hopefully in another city, possibly Miami. Maybe franchise. In five years I’d like to buy my own building. I want a pool, cool stuff, maybe a basketball court. In Colombia and Venezuela, maybe we can have one there.
Is there anything else you’d like your community to know?
Guy: I’d like people to know more about Spinal Cord injury. A lot of people don’t know about it until it happens to someone close. It’s a good idea to know the basics: how it happens, daily life of a someone with spinal cord injury etc. A simple fall could cause that and cause paralysis. It could happen to anybody.
End of Interview
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