Life changing moments

Sue teaching

Our son was born in the summer of 1989, and 11 weeks later I was knocked off my bike and sustained a severe head injury.

It took me several months to get over this injury. I think anyone who’s ever had a significant trauma to the head will know how I felt.

Over the next 7 months whilst not at work, it game me time to reflect. I asked myself the big questions. What do I want, what do I feel for sure, what did I always want to do, but the chance hadn’t been there. I knew that I had wanted be a physiotherapist when I was 15, something I had told the advisors in the career office at school – but was informed that was just a pipe dream for girls like me.

I wanted to be more in charge of my working life. do work that would fit around my child and work that felt right to me.

I did the research where would be the best school to train, and the fact my husband’s Aunt had passed and left a portion of her savings to us was there helping me decide. In the end, I was looking at an issue of the Northern Institute of Massage’s prospectus, battered and old. Steve asked what was I thinking, and my reply was that I thought there would be old experienced therapist that I could learn from – I’ve always been seeking wisdom!

On my first weekend I met Ken Woodward, who was quite a formidable character. He was a man of few words, and when he was speaking was always overly direct. He was the owner of the institute and a therapist.

I was a little wary at first, but then I watched him work. I watched him demonstrate a back massage and as he authoritatively placed his hands at the base of the students spine, I was struck by his absolute presence with the person he was treating. He was well aware of how he was working depended on who he was treating; I saw how he could listen with his hands, not cause pain, and work with such grace and ease.

I knew in that moment that was the kind of therapist I wanted to be.

I also met Bessie Beryl Harper, my now good friend,who had already been taught by Ken. Beryl began my training by first teaching simple work on the leg (a safe place to start for a novice). Watching Beryl work, I saw she had the same presence as Ken. When it was my turn to practice I became a little emotional. Beryl asked why, and I replied it had felt like I had just come home. Beryl smiled took me in a big bear hug and said welcome home – it had been the same for her.

Ken led me to believe that I needed my anatomy and physiology to be on the button! But what was so brilliant was that he also showed me that the same went for empathy and compassion; that you had to gain an understanding of who they are to be able to treat them successfully.

My two favourite Ken quotes were:  

‘You’re going to have to learn that you don’t have to kill them to fix them’

‘If you can’t be curious, you will never fix any one. You have to always wonder: where does this pain begin?’

It was Ken and Beryl’s care, presence and commitment to the person they were treating that formed the foundation on which I have built my body work, and I’m completely grateful for it.


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