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Burke PT Uses His Own Past Paralysis To Help Patients Make Steps Today

Ben Gilbert, director of Outpatient Rehab Services at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, helps one of his patients during a therapy session. Photo Credit: Burke Rehabilitation Hospital
Ben Gilbert has been with Burke since 2002. Photo Credit: Burke Rehabilitation Hospital

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- For Ben Gilbert, director of Outpatient Rehab Services and an orthopedic clinical specialist at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, the desire to become a physical therapist was born out of his own traumatic struggle.

"When I was 16, I became paralyzed on my entire right side after having brain surgery," said Gilbert. The once athletic teen found himself unable to complete simple daily tasks. "I had physical therapy for years and years afterwards." It was while working with physical therapists on an ongoing basis that it occurred to Gilbert that he may have found his calling. 

"I was a sophomore economics major in college when I made the decision to be a therapist," said Gilbert. "I knew it was a growing career and I could offer something personal to patients. It was then and there that I got on the phone and began contacting graduate school programs."

Since joining Burke in 2002, Gilbert has worked with a variety of patients. Some have experienced sports injuries, while others have suffered life threatening traumas. Some are adolescents and others over 100 years old. For Gilbert, helping each patient creates a new personal connection and he has developed lifelong relationships with people from all walks of life: 9/11 survivors, youths suffering from debilitating diseases and more.

Take the story of one of his young patients, for instance. "I worked with a teenage girl who had a rare genetic condition that caused her to have pain all over her body and her joints to dislocate," he said. "It was a real challenge and progress was difficult and slow, but she remained incredibly motivated and compliant throughout the ordeal. She ultimately had to drop out of school for awhile, but we continued to work with her to help her regain her strength." Slowly but surely, progress was made. "Eventually, she ended up going back to school, was able to walk unassisted and put her joint dislocations under control," said Gilbert.

It's experiences like these, that make being a physical therapist special, said Gilbert. "Physical therapists, as well as other therapists like occupational and speech therapists, typically get to know our patients more personally and see them more regularly than most other practitioners. We get to build relationships that can, and do, last a lifetime."

As physical therapists nationwide celebrate National PT Month, Gilbert and Burke Hospital are proof that true care begins in the heart.

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