When Physical Therapy Also Becomes Nosy Hour

March 19, 2014 in Medical Stories

LANDSTUHL, Germany (Oct. 16, 2008) Physical th...

(U.S. Army photo by Michelle Barrera) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Little Dude has been going to physical therapy because one of his medications has a side effect of neuropathy. Yeah, I didn’t know what that was either, but basically it affects his nerves and can make it more difficult to walk, write, catch a ball, etc. The good news is it’s reversible and the even better news is that with physical therapy, his agility can improve even more quickly.

So, the doctors recommended he get a jump on it, rather than waiting until treatment ends. Twice a week, we head to my gym, where there is a physical therapy group that occupies the back half of the health club. It’s actually a win-win for both of us. While he does his exercises under the supervision of a trained physical therapist, I am in the next room working out on the Stairmaster and watching “Breaking Bad” on my iPad.

I always make sure to finish my workout first, and sit in the waiting area of the PT room until Little Dude is done with his workout. What I realized pretty quickly is that Little Dude stands out when he is there because he is surrounded by older people. The teenagers and younger kids come in the afternoons after school, but since Little Dude is being home schooled, we have plenty of time to fit this in before the regular school day ends. Most of these “older” people focus on themselves and try not to notice why a 10-year old is there in the middle of the day. However, a few of them like to chat. And by chat, I mean ask questions. And by ask questions, I mean get into someone else’s business.

After one workout session, Little Dude told me that one man point-blank asked him what his injury was. He didn’t know what to say and just replied, “I don’t have an injury.” Another person outright asked the physical therapist working with my son what he was doing there, and the therapist rightly replied along the lines of, “I cannot discuss why my clients are here.”

Then one day while I was waiting for my son, a man sat across from me and asked if that was my son nearby. He too had asked one of the therapists why he was there and after receiving no information, he decided the next best course of action was to question me, the mom.

Ballsy, right?

Well, on the one hand the guy thoroughly annoyed me that he felt it was his right to know, but on the other hand, this man was 90-years-old – for real. I figured a 90-year-old guy didn’t have too many people in town to gossip with, so I did not see the harm in telling him. Of course he felt like a total jerk for asking after I gave him the reason for my son’s neuropathy and why he needed to be there.

He kept talking to me and I soon realized this guy just wanted someone to talk to, period. When it was time for us to leave, he asked for our names and wanted to know what days my son was there, so he could talk to me again. If he wasn’t 90, I’d say I had a stalker on my hands.

As for the other nosy people who didn’t have the excuse of being 90, I say, I know you’re curious, but sometimes it’s just better to not ask why a 10-year old is having physical therapy in the middle of the day.

Note: I think this post just came across as angry. I didn’t mean it to sound that way. I am merely observing human nature throughout our long days together and I am learning a lot — both good and not as good, but always interesting.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Dorothy March 19, 2014 at 8:15 am

I am always amazed by the lack of tact that sometimes appears in unlikely situations and the blurring of boundaries between strangers. It must be something about our information rich age we live in- and that everyone’s business should be available for consumption about everyone else.
Around here- when I ask “too penetrating” a question- more than likely I’ll get- “If I wanted you to know I would tell you!”- always a poignant reminder to respect each other’s privacy.
Thinking of you and Little Dude and your family often and wishing you all the best!
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ohboymom March 19, 2014 at 11:43 am

Thanks and I agree that it is about respecting each other’s privacy, especially if the person is a total stranger. But, people are strange sometimes. :)


Chris Carter March 19, 2014 at 10:40 am

When my daughter used to pull her hair out (still actually does at times by twisting it into a frazzled break) as a toddler because she was so ill all the time, people constantly looked at her in horror and often flat out asked if she was doing chemo. She had many bald patches and half her head (She sucked her thumb and twisted with the other hand) was completely bald.

Also- with my kids’ asthma- oh the things people would say. I go could on and on and on….

People are very very nosy. I am not sure if this is an “American” thing- no boundaries WHATSOEVER.

And you don’t at all come across as angry- just observant and a bit annoyed- rightly so.
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ohboymom March 19, 2014 at 11:42 am

Thanks and yes, I suppose I was a bit annoyed especially since I decided to write about it, but I think you’re right that this could be an “American” thing.


Janine Huldie March 19, 2014 at 10:50 am

I too could understand a bit more about the 90 year old man, but seriously people really have balls to ask something like this. And I too would be annoyed to be quite honest if it were me and think you handled yourself perfectly, but still sorry that anyone would even dare to ask. Actually just got under my skin reading this, so again my hat is off to you for being so low key when questioned.
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ohboymom March 19, 2014 at 11:40 am

Yeah I kind of surprised myself because I’m usually not so low key when it comes to protecting my kids and their privacy, but in this case I just let it go…


Sarah March 19, 2014 at 7:00 pm

LOVE your response to the other busybodies!!! And the PT you are using are wonderful- was there for my shoulder last year (and avoided the stairmaster!). Tell Little Dude I said to wash his hands! And that I hope all is going well for him and the rest of your dudes and the one gal!
Did not come across as angry at all, but perhaps it is because I am in the field and was too busy laughing over the nerve of people!!


ohboymom March 19, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Ha – thanks and yes, Little Dude always bathes himself in Purell both before and after PT. :) I do appreciate your thoughts and hope to see you on the courts soon!


Julia March 19, 2014 at 8:04 pm

I feel for you wanting to protect Little Dude and his right to privacy, something he should especially be afforded as a child. Ballsy — (great word!) but it’s touching that you were still kind to someone who was probably lonely. Go Little Dude! – hope the sessions keep going well.


ohboymom March 20, 2014 at 11:06 am

Thanks and despite trying to protect the Dude’s privacy, it did also feel good to make a new “friend.”


Julie March 19, 2014 at 10:01 pm

I don’t think you sound too angry, or should I say, not inappropriately so at all–it’s very irritating when people feel entitled to know! Does this worsen with age or is it an east coast suburban phenomenon? I have the fantasy of your blurting out the reason to give these people a moment of discomfort for asking. I don’t know if it would work but it sounds like without being told they continued to feel entitled to probe! Maybe it would also be funny to come up with a faux fancy illness and tell them it’s highly contagious! (Ok, I’m getting out of hand now). Glad there was a silver (very silver!) lining in making a new friend.


ohboymom March 20, 2014 at 11:05 am

Well, when I told the 90-year old why he was there, he blurted out, “shit.” It was cute actually. And yes, we did make a new friend. :)


Kristi Campbell March 20, 2014 at 12:52 am

I didn’t think you sounded angry either, and totally relate to inappropriate questions and not wanting to answer them. Of course, when asked by 90 year olds, they’re more forgiven but often times, I feel like it’s some weird gawker/gossip mongering thing. I’m sorry that both you and little dude even had to deal with that.
People are rude and intrusive and just not empathetic enough in general. If everybody took 1 minute to breathe and put themselves in the shoes of the ones they’re curious over, they’d probably have something very different to say. Or say nothing at all.


ohboymom March 20, 2014 at 11:42 am

You are so right that this does have to do with not being empathetic enough – I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it makes sense that the more nosy you are, the less empathetic…logic!


Kerri March 22, 2014 at 10:02 pm

On one hand going to a Pedi center for PT/OT/SPT is great b/c we are all in the same demographic. Doesn’t stop the intrusive questions but at least they are not 90.
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ohboymom March 23, 2014 at 9:33 pm

That’s amazing that you also receive intrusive questions in a place that caters to kids…I guess it goes to show you that no one discriminates when it comes to nosiness (I think I spelled that wrong but oh well).


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