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Is that why you hold your arm that way?

Fearless

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xc-raceRunning is an activity that I always enjoyed… but going outside meant exposure to individuals who are not quite tolerant or accepting. The title is a loaded question born out of genuine curiosity for something that I generally do not think about, especially with the friends and family members that I have known all my life. As my first blog post, I want to keep this short, succinct, and focused on an introduction to myself on what truly matters most.

At the core, what I want for myself and everyone within my sphere of influence is the ability to do exactly what we want when we want and fulfill our wildest dreams. I know it is an optimistic view that has yet to be clashed with the practicalities of the real world. Most importantly, fitness is a key element of what I want to do and how to influence others in a practical manner. I do not need people to become cardio bunnies or pump iron but I would greatly appreciate the change in mindset as I take small steps towards addressing the major healthcare issues currently affecting my neighborhood.

As a side note, I would love to discuss the culture of disability (and being different) from a mature standpoint that is not bitter. I know this is a touchy topic and perhaps I will post a video about it on YouTube.

Fruit flies? Research?

single-fruit-fly-drosophila-melanogaster-on-white-background-cropped

Drosophila melanogaster… aka fruit flies. I am going into science nerd mode briefly here to talk about… hox genes. Of course, you can check Wikipedia (see below). One of the miracles of life is how we all start from a single cell. When looking at different animal and insect models for research, it is impressive how alike we are in our embryonic development and the pattern formation. Hox genes assist in laying out the body plan.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hox_gene

Alrighty. So what about working in a lab filled with fruit flies? How did that research experience influence me personally and professionally? Here was an opportunity for me to put my money where my mouth was and demonstrate my hard work ethic. Here was an opportunity for leadership. Ironically, the means of me finding out about the position was through my student leadership experiences and networking. Technically, even a middle-school aged student could do what I did. However, what was most important was repetition and understanding the value of seeing things through. I fortunately had this type of experience through distance running in high school on the Cross Country and Track & Field teams.

The overarching plan and experiments were pretty neat, though the activities necessary were mundane. What I appreciated was the ability to understand exactly what needed to be done and simply act upon that. For example, I would use a microscope to check if the fly was male or female. Or I would prepare a “food cook” batch following the recipe. Or I would carefully add 10 female flies to a specific box. Or I would clean equipment.

I enjoyed being able to listen to music or chat with peers during this time. In fact, one of these conversations about bucket lists was what spurred me to run a marathon. Most of all, I appreciated the lab manager recognizing my abilities.

I did not personally see much in myself. When recruiting lab leaders for the following year, he told me, “We need talent.”

Fast forwarding to my final quarter ever during my senior year, I was left in charge of the lab on the weekends, equipped with the lab key and my lab manager’s cell phone number should any problems arise. Out of everyone, he entrusted me to oversee the team and his experiments while he cared for his family, especially his newborn daughter. To my surprise, by doing my thing and not being too bossy, the weekend team ended up being more productive than the weekday team. Needless to say, the lab manager expressed extreme gratitude at the opportunity to write a letter of recommendation for me.

Below is a video where I explained a bit more about how much my lab manager played a major role as my mentor during the admissions process for Physical Therapy school. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve grown a lot since this was aired on Facebook live so we shall see if Berg and I follow up with another video in the future!

Building a following by playing videogames for charity

Trihex

Fair warning… this is another one of my posts where I get to geek out. The one I did before was about how movement is an art. If anything, I hope people will at least have a slight bit more compassion for videogame communities and treating people like people (who have different hobbies), which is a value I treasure as someone who grew up feeling different. So… let’s start off with the photo above of me with Trihex (the dude who is the “TriHard” Twitch emote and speedruns Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island as seen in the video below). He is an awesome person whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Las Vegas at the Evo fighting videogame tournament in 2015 (aside from seeing him at the SGDQ 2014 speedrunning charity event). Trihex has quite the following on the Twitch livestreaming site for videogamers (currently part of Amazon) and has been doing it for quite a while. He had great advice for me as a fellow speedrunner that is highly applicable to anything in life simply because we are human. Basically, he told me that I should focus on what I am passionate about. Don’t worry about the number of followers or viewers. Do what you enjoy. If you do that, then you are willing to keep up a fun hobby even when working a job, going through school, and facing some rough times. Don’t worry about what’s popular. You do you. I wholeheartedly appreciated this advice as someone literally just starting DPT school. Boy… was that a grueling first year of studying pretty much all the time (perhaps a topic for another blog post).

Leading into another speedrunning story that is more relevant to what I am learning as a Physical Therapy student… Runnerguy2489 who speedruns The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (OoT)… when he is not working as a civil engineer. As a generous gentleman, he helped out a blind individual by going through the hassle of mapping out how to play Zelda OoT blindfolded, which you can check out in the playlist starting with the video down below. I thought it was a great idea for improving accessibility and being able to share with others the experience of playing a 3D Zelda game. Runnerguy is a really great person and I was thrilled when he hopped onto my Twitch stream a few years ago to say hi and that as a fellow runner, he understood the meaning of my username “26pt2” (hint: the number of miles in a marathon race).

So how did I know about Trihex and Runnerguy2489? Although we met virtually through Twitch and then in person at SGDQ or Evo, I first started seeing them on YouTube when replays of AGDQ/SGDQ were uploaded and showing up in my feed. So what is AGDQ (Awesome Games Done Quick) or SGDQ (Summer Games Done Quick)? Both are charity events run by SDA (Speed Demos Archive), in which AGDQ typically is hosted live in the East Coast during the winter and SGDQ is hosted in the Southwest during the summer. More information can be found at the website here: https://gamesdonequick.com/. The whole crew is extremely professional and the events are well-organized. I had a blast being at the event and meeting people. Below is a video of my appearance as a commentator during SGDQ 2014. Now, mind you, this was an exciting time as one of two the Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures speedrunners because it is a grueling, long process to apply as a speedrunner for SDGQ (and even moreso for AGDQ). SGDQ has been known to be more accepting during the scheduling for more… obscure games. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures is definitely one of the blacksheep of the whole Zelda series but you can find out more as Zmaster discusses during the run in 2014. However, I would highly recommend watching the updated run at SGDQ 2016 with the route changes by playing the Japanese version and being able to perform cool tricks that skip major portions of individual levels. Overall, the experience of being live in person was nerve-wracking because of how many people were viewing. I was getting Facebook wall posts from college friends and Twitch inbox messages. The awesome part was how meeting face-to-face with popular Twitch streamers was not a surprise because they were exactly how they acted on their streams.

And here was my fastest speedrun of the Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (I know… not even close, though I tried)

Lastly, below is my treasured “Palace of the Four Sword” run from the remake The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords (Gameboy Advance). When I glanced through the SDA (Speed Demos Archive) forums for speedrun requests, I noticed an interesting one about doing an all-in-one go for the extra bonus dungeon in the GBA (Gameboy Advance) remake of aLttP (a Link to the Past). When I kept searching on YouTube and Twitch, nothing popped up. As far as I knew, no one else tried. So… what did I do? Innovate and figure it out. This was just a hobby during my free time while taking PT school pre-requesites, doing the GRE, and getting more PT setting observation hours. I spent quite a while learning from the original Japanese 1.0 aLttP speedrunners to figure out the routes, the techniques, the tricks, and how to navigate out-of-bounds (a necessary feat to complete this run without having to play the multiplayer Four Swords game). On an ending note, the coolest thing about communities like distance runners and videogamers is that they are very accessible and willing to share. In my video below, I shared my notes in the hopes that someone would take up the challenge and offer me some competition. I know this was seemingly way off topic for one of my blog posts but I hope you enjoy “me being me” as someone who grew up with hadoukens and 1up mushrooms. I hope that one day in the future, I get to partake in a videogame charity event for a cause related to my career. Maybe I will host the event? Volunteer to read off donations? Do one of the speedruns? Who knows? Throwing a wild idea out there… would I consider opening up a clinic that is geared towards gamers, especially esports atheletes? Or help someone else achieve that goal? As a fellow gamer and a soon-to-be Physical Therapist (as opposed to someone who does not understand the culture and thinks it might be… nice)? Who knows? Until next time, have a good one!

Making the best of what you got: growing up with rehab

Santa

Pediatric Rehab. Therapy with kids. As someone who was born with ROBPI (right obstetric brachial plexus injury), which is a tear within the bundle of nerves by the shoulder blade and collar bone, I spent my first days of life in a hospital, not a home. Today, part of me wants to push my career path full-circle back into the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) but we shall see. The purpose of this blog post is to shed a very brief glimpse of my patient experience (to be elaborated in a future blog post series).

First and foremost, I do not remember everything but what has “stuck” is important. I would do everything asked of me because I was a good kid. Yet the challenge for the therapists (Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy) was that I was smart and high-functioning, meaning that I could do just about everything they wanted me to do… and continued to be stubborn about how I wanted to do things.

Putting everything in context, I was the youngest of three kids and my mom decided to switch over to night shift so we could all go to school on time. Where I went to rehab was in Oakland. If not Children’s Hospital Oakland (CHO), then it was a school-based clinic. Either way, my mom would have to drive me at least half an hour both ways. The only thing I can really remember about CHO was the gift shop. Therapy was just something I did so I could play with the toys downstairs after an elevator trip and maybe get that stringed lion or giraffe push button toy. Somehow those managed to nab my attention.

It’s probably better that I grew up in that 90’s era rather than nowadays with kids playing on iPads. They have no idea what the dark ages were like before wireless Internet! By the same token, I gained so much appreciation for that value of what we had, especially the SNES with Zelda, Mario, Street Fighter, and Super Buster Bros. Those were good times when I could play with my older brother if we weren’t messing around with Legos. Or if I didn’t want to dance to New Kids on the Block or “Under the Sea”. As you can see, there was definitely a dichotomy between the clinic and my home/school. Nothing was really explained to me even though I knew my letters, numbers, and colors. Shout outs to growing up on the street… Sesame Street!

Pain, Growth, Transformation, …and maybe some Recognition

IMG_3753

For those of you who don’t know me, I love running. I know that bores some people and I would never force you to accompany me on a journey. Above is a photo of my most treasured award. It was living proof of my transition from freshman to sophomore year of Cross Country (with a dose of distance running on the Track team). Long-distance running requires long-term thinking… and a passion for the process. I’ve previously “re-blogged” my post about my first marathon experience but let’s bring it back to the roots. I had my difficulties on the track during my high school years but before that, there was my brother’s influence of seeing the enjoyment amongst a team who competed by… running.

One of the silliest things I would say when I was little was that my shoes made me run faster. I would purposely “tie my shoes” on field trips so I could sprint a little burst to catch up. There were countless treasured memories that ultimately led to my decision to join the Cross Country team as a cold turkey who NEVER participated with any sports team before. I even needed a neighbor who was on the team to overcome my doubts, get me in front of the coaches, and reel me in. I’ve discussed some of the challenges along the way, though problems already surfaced despite my eldest niece not being born yet.

So… what was the key to my successful pursuit of running faster? Working harder and smarter! No shortcuts! In my ambitious strive towards building up mileage, I faced injuries along the way, especially calf pain that felt like daggers in my legs. However, I was able to get in touch with my coaches and slash my personal best times with ease. A tremendous amount of growth was necessary to attain the recognition in the above photo. I will leave with the short yet sweet story about summer runners’ camp out near Half Moon Bay.

My first summer camp of running was quite the experience. I had just finished my freshman year and was eager to improve. Little did I know what exactly that entailed. Running twice a day?!? Pool workouts? Good thing I was in good company. But wow… was I tired or what? 6, 7, 8 miles for a long run that was out-and-back? What if I get lost? Or I am alone? Fatigue much? I earned some battle scars along the way, especially after a silly fall when tripping on a fallen tree. In spite of the work, I did not mind the moments & memories along the way, including washing dishes, playing group games, playing ping pong, taking naps in sleeping bags, going on night hikes, sharing stories, and… connecting. If anything was instrumental to my ability to improve, it was first and foremost the feeling that I… mattered. So whatever it is that you are doing, keep at it!

Sink or swim

Alameda

Quick share about my personal story that I want to talk about here. Probably the most admirable time of my life was when I was in high school. Despite family drama through middle school, I still kept my grades up. I was not the straight A 4.0 student but my grades were still nothing to scoff at. In a previous blog post, I mentioned my achievement as the most academically successful student of Filipino ancestry in one of the more rigorous public high schools of the Bay Area. The basis for knowing it was good was that substitute teachers preferred being where I went to school. The exposure to real-world problems and inconsistencies beyond the academic bubble really opened my eyes though. This was so much more than getting sidetracked during a track meet. So in high school, on top of taking as many college-level AP courses as possible, guitar lessons, running cross country and track & field, and volunteering through Key Club, I would spend some restless nights helping take care of my niece, which I would do willingly without any need for recognition. It was something I would never talk about with people. Not going to really go into detail but basically, my sister is crazy. My mom simply tried (and to this day continues) to help raise the grandkids. Being in that environment drove me to this “sink or swim” mentality that was extremely stressful and drove me crazy. It was the point that led to me burning out in college despite my dreams to be a PT since childhood. I would face so much resistance with the culmination of burning questions about “why” for all the things in my world that felt wrong.

Reflecting from this stance as a third year DPT student learning immense amounts of knowledge during my first clinical rotation with a world-renowned PT as my first CI is insane. I sincerely thank Dr. Michael Wong and Dr. Jeff Moore for helping me reach my current level of clinical decision making beyond the material covered in class. Most of all, I am deeply grateful for my mentors and support network! If you are a Physical Therapist or DPT student, then you should seriously level up!

I can say that the anger and frustration of having undergone a horribly wild and untold story has faded. Yet I still feel some type of passion to pursue something more. It’s still not completely clear what that is but… that’s not the point. The journey is what matters most. It doesn’t matter who you are… whether that be race, religion, sexuality, or age… the truth will ALWAYS win out in the long-run. So be patient and you can outlast anything! Survive and then THRIVE! That is the fundamental truth for why I wholeheartedly and firmly believe that I can change the world, even if that impact is “only” one person. This is not some young, naive perspective. This is a mature outlook after seeking sources of real, authentic, and DEEP inspiration for what feels like ages. Most of all, you have my support in your journey to change the world too! Thank you for reading! Keep at it!

When words don’t have weight and all you can do is wait

MV-Collage

Just to preface, I am not asking for anyone to judge me differently. This is the blog post that I… would never do and every ounce of me resisted. Quite frankly, it is really uncharacteristic of me to share something like this, regardless of how many years it’s been. I am sharing this here now because I would rather not be “gripped”.

When I was in 5th grade, my parents divorced. I learned in a crude manner about the physical abuse. There is a YouTube video describing the incident as narrated by my older brother. If you wish, you can watch below. My mom, my sister, my brother, and I moved in with my maternal grandparents.

When my mom’s family helped gather all of the belongings, one of my uncles nearly punched my father after overhearing something. My father boldly stated to my sister, “You owe me”. He was talking about college tuition.

I was court ordered to go to anger management. This was the most significant “Catch 22” of my life. I did not know how to act. I never met such crazy people in my life with whom I had to share the room. Even they asked why I was there.

What made matters complicated was that I had to visit my father per visitation rights. A lot of money was wasted in court. Even obtaining something as seemingly simple as a signature for renewing my passport and giving the thumbs up for me to travel outside of the country was a huge burden financially and emotionally.

I listened to a ton of music. MP3 players were becoming popular at the time but all I had was a CD player. I built up my iTunes library and burned my favorite mixes on CDs.

My biggest obstacle to overcome was this notion that anyone else (but me) was allowed to thrive, flourish, and be successful simply put because they did not deal with my challenges. Granted, I did not wish harm or awful things upon anyone. They lived a life that was fully privileged and socially acceptable. I wasn’t quiet just to be nice. I was quiet because I lacked meaningful talking points. There was so much disconnect between where I was and where I wanted to be.

I learned to listen. I had to see a lot of different counselors, especially with my father. I could hear the tones and detect the mannerisms of my father dancing around an issue or trying to sway my stance in an argument. It would reach the point where he would tell me that I was brainwashed. Most of all, I felt powerless because I was “just a kid”. My grades had no impact on visitation hours. The judge could tell that I was smart based on my GPA but my words only carried so much weight.

What changed as time went on was that my mom did not want to play hardball. She did not fight for child support money, which I could care less about. As for me, I transitioned into high school. I joined the Cross Country team per my brother’s advice. I knew the coaches from the times I would visit my older brother’s award ceremonies when I was younger.

Moral of the story: Do not deny people their personhood, especially kids. Every case is tricky but I trust that everyone here has great intuition.

Thank you if you read this. I did not want to sound bitter. I just wanted to share my experiences and hopefully you gained some insight on the complexities of people. This is not something I normally just go around sharing (in person) and I think you could tell why. Most of all, I will not act weird or dark because that is not me. On the other hand, socially awkward is totally me.

Below are resources if you (or someone you know) is in need of help coping with abuse and trauma.

http://www.thehotline.org/what-is-gaslighting/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/power-in-relationships/200905/are-you-being-gaslighted

https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/10-things-i-wish-i-d-known-about-gaslighting-22234cb5e407

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/types/violence/domestic-violence.asp

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder

https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/flashbacks.htm

Let’s be honest! Feeling the pangs of burnout? Do you still have that passion for your career? Is something amiss?

Burnout

Burnout? It’s a real thing! Why? Well, “why” is the most important thing. If your “why” isn’t strong, then you are susceptible to burnout. Sometimes, there are situations that you did not expect once you jumped into a workplace, which can include school as well. My advice to you is… “Don’t doubt yourself!” Who cares if other people doubt you? Don’t focus on proving other people wrong! Focus on proving what you inherently know to be true! What do I mean? Whatever vision it is that you have… believe in that and do what it takes to get there. Be relentless!

So… for me, Physical Therapy school was by far the most grueling and tough run through education that I have ever experienced. Why? Anyone can preach about the terrors of test week. Being in a routine of eat, sleep, study while going to class from 8 am to 5 pm is no bueno, especially when some of the exams are lab practicals where you have to physically demonstrate a technique. However, it’s not just how you use your hands. You also have to clarify when this intervention would be contraindicated, the parameters (settings), and how to document. Safety is the biggest concern. It’s doable but… geez. Going through it felt robotic at times because information was rushing in much faster than I was able to process it. I am so grateful to have made it past the difficult points. The only thing that stands in my way (at the time of writing this post) is the NPTE, which is the board examination for Physical Therapy students. One major critique is that the NPTE has no lab practical component and emphasizes safety more than anything. Also, the concepts of questions are derived from textbooks, which can include outdated information. Despite the challenge of wanting to be a solid clinician out of the gates and having to put in the necessary struggle to pass the boards, I am confident that my cohort (yay class of 2018) will rock it!

Beyond the board examination and after obtaining licensure, things can be… rough. I do not know personally but I hear the tone of overworked individuals pretty often, especially with the bickering in online groups. Burnout is definitely a real thing with the challenges of insurance reimbursement and providing quality care for the patient… but you (PTs) should check out my level up page! Why? There actually are PTs (turned business owners) who understand your frustration and how to help you learn the necessary skills to get back on track in this 24/7 digital era. Things truly don’t have to be the way they are. Let’s be a part of that change!