A passing conversation with a tall blonde physiotherapist, in 2009, was the catalyst that changed the course of my life and was to continue to have a strong influence on my career and personal outlook.
I had noticed a woman in the practice where I was currently finishing a clinical prac as part of my masters. She had been pushing a real time ultrasound device in and out of her room which had grabbed my attention. These devices were generally only seen when looking at babies during pregnancy. At the time only a few physios were incorporating this intervention as part of their practice so I was fairly excited to see it in action. We chatted briefly and she introduced herself as Cathy and invited me to watch one of her sessions with a patient. She had a patient coming in that day, referred to her with ongoing back pain, whom required specific core muscle recruitment training. I remember watching that session and seeing something completely different from any treatment session I have ever seen before. This woman didn’t poke or prod her patient, didn’t massage the sore parts of her back, didn’t pull out a hot pack or throw a machine on them at the end. What she did was explain why the patient was likely in pain. She taught the patient how to breathe, how to activate this little muscle called transverses and what things the patient could be doing that would make the pain worse. She empowered the patient in a way I had never seen before. If this was physiotherapy, I wanted more of it.
Fortunately for me, Cathy is intuitive and could see my enthusiasm. She also had a waitlist for appointments of at least 6 weeks! She invited me back to watch a few more sessions and at the end of my prac asked me to come and work for her. She would become my mentor. What I didn’t know then was she would also become my friend.
The next few years flew by. I learnt so much and I like to think I brought a few new ideas to the table with my personal training background. We wrote and taught courses for personal trainers from a physiotherapy perspective, we attended lectures together and we bounced so many ideas back and forward. After a few years, my part of the business grew and whilst not quite as busy as Cathy with her waitlist (she still had a 6 week wait list!); it was time to expand the team.
Next to join was Scott Gentle. Scott is a Queenslander who had arrived in Sydney looking for work. He was young and enthusiastic. I wonder that after many years of moving the bed-height down to my level when we practiced, Cathy was also pleased to have someone of more comparable height in the business! He went through the same mentorship I did. What I remember watching at this time was the passion Cathy has for teaching. She is a team player and loves to impart her knowledge but there’s also something that she gives, beyond this, which is hard to define but is more about the way she makes you feel. This is why she is such an incredible physiotherapist. She teaches her patients with the same enthusiasm. She may use different language when teaching a fellow physiotherapist but she teaches her patients with this same passion. If patients grab a fraction of her energy, I know they will do just fine.
One might think impending retirement would quell Cathy’s drive but this has yet to be witnessed. She has enthusiastically mentored Nikita this year and recently called her, ‘a little version of herself’. A high compliment indeed. This is why I know, even though she won’t be attending the practice daily, we will continue to work with Cathy and avail of her knowledge and wisdom to keep striving for best practice in our business. Education and being abreast of current research and innovation is a priority for all of us; we aspire to be the best physiotherapists we can be.
Cathy has always told me the key to longevity in physiotherapy is to reinvent yourself periodically and push yourself into new directions with your treatments. It was because of this advice I recently embarked on a functional diagnostic medicine program. She said if I was passionate about something, just do it!
I’d like to finish and reinforce that whilst Cathy may be retiring from face to face consults within the business she is still very much involved and will continue to influence any direction we take. For this reason, we have decided to keep the business name as Butel Health Services for one year. After that we’d love your suggestions. We hope we will continue to serve you well.
Thank you Cathy for everything you have done for us and from all your patients. Thank you for your friendship. We can’t wait to see what you will do next.