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Physical Therapist: Kim te Riele

KimteRiele'I want to make others feel at ease'

After reading a book about the experiences of a physical therapist when she was a young girl, Kim te Riele knew this was a profession she wanted to pursue as an adult. Te Riele runs Kim's Fysiotherapy (Physical Therapy) in Madame Estate Shopping Center, where she helps patients resolve their muscular and joint issues Wednesdays-Saturdays. On Mondays and Tuesdays, she works for Saba Health Care Foundation in Saba. She took a shot at entrepreneurship in January when she opened her own practice Kim's Physical Therapy. The 40-year-old mother of three, who has been with her "hero" Louimaire Joseph for 13 years, gives us a peek into her life in this week's Health and Beauty.

Who is Kim te Riele?

I am a mother, wife, physical therapist, secretary of the Windward Islands Physical Therapy Association (WIPTA) board, a daughter, sister and friend.

How would you describe yourself?

I am a caring person with a positive view, who wants to make others feel at ease.

How did you end up in St. Maarten?

I was born in Deventer, the Netherlands. When I finished my education in physical therapy in Utrecht, the Netherlands, in 1999, I found a job in St. Maarten in 2000. After five years working in St. Maarten, I moved to Saba, where I set up physical therapy, with everything that is related to our field. Due to economizing of the Dutch Department of Health, I came back to St Maarten.

When did you discover your love for healthcare and specifically for physical therapy?

I gave people massages at a young age. My hands just showed me what to do. When I was 12, I was reading a book about a physical therapist who had just finished her massage. From then on, I knew I wanted to become a physical therapist. Not knowing it was so much more.

What is it about being a physical therapist that you like?

I am a caring person, who likes to help other people. How great it is to see somebody coming in with pain and walking out without! (Not usually after the first session.)

Employment history?

I started at the former Physical Therapy Steffens clinic in Madame Estate, where I worked for five years. In my transition year, I worked two days in Saba and two days for the former Carib Care Clinic on A.Th. Illidge Road. I then decided to settle in Saba. The nice thing about working in Saba is the versatility. I worked in the old age home, in the hospital, in the clinic, and for four years at the schools. When the Minister of Health decided to economize on the BES islands, I decided to move back to St. Maarten. I have been a physical therapist in St. Maarten for a total of six years and nine months.

What do your tasks entail?

I start my week in Saba, where I support/train/educate children with motor skill problems. I treat my patients individually or in a group. By midweek, I come to St Maarten, where I work in the clinic, see patients, give them advise, exercises and treatment. There are also non-patient tasks that need to be done such as administration, declaration and visitation of practitioners/insurance.

What differentiates you from other physical therapists in the field?

I strongly believe that everyone has their own qualities, so I don't think physical therapists should be compared to each other. I learned a lot in my years in Saba because I was the only therapist there. I had to figure things out for myself. That's how I became more all-round and added working with children to the daily routine. I work with my heart and I am curious and eager to learn new things.

Best aspects of being a physical therapist?

For me the best aspect of being a physical therapist is being able to help others and guiding the patient through the process of (mostly) their pain reality.

How do you think you contribute to a better society via your position?

Next to hands-on and hands-off treatment, we also give advice about and prevent certain conditions.

How do you think the field of physical therapy can be improved in St. Maarten?

I would like to see more unity among all the therapists and more involvement. We can learn from and with each other to improve and provide better care.

What's the craziest/funniest/scariest thing that has happened to you in your line of work?

There are a few stories, but this one got stuck in my head: I had a patient who had a cast around a straight leg for eight weeks. He did not get therapy for three weeks and then he came to the clinic where I worked to get his leg bent. It was still extended. The treatment gave him a lot of pain, it was nearly impossible to get the knee to bend. He was always screaming out of pain on the bench, until one day, the adhesions in the knee suddenly let go; it felt like a knife cutting butter! I could bend his leg so easily! To be honest, I was in shock myself, but I never forgot the experience.

As secretary of WIPTA, what issues do you think the Association should focus on and why?

I think we have to become one group and work together on improvement of communication with each other, with doctors, insurance companies and the general public.

Why did you decide to join WIPTA?

In Saba, I am associated with the therapists from the (Caribbean Netherlands) and through the whole economizing situation, I noticed we were really united, standing together, fighting together. That's why I am so focused on the unity part I guess. So I actually went to every clinic in St. Maarten to see if there were any ideas. As of January, we started with a new form of the WIPTA board with five therapists representing the different clinics.

What are some of the major issues affecting physical therapists in St. Maarten and in the Windward Islands?

From my experience, physical therapy is the first occupation the Department of Health cuts into when it decides to economize. They think physical therapy costs a lot of money and we don't provide lifesaving care. So the government doesn't see us as important. But of course we are. I think we are an extension of the doctors, who know a lot about diseases, but a lot less about joints, muscles, tendons and nerves, movement and exercises, compared to us.

Future goals?

My future professional goals are to create more unity, keep expanding my knowledge via courses and of course apply this in my clinic. My personal goals are to stay happy and healthy and to go to Haiti with the family next summer break.

Hobbies?

Going to the sea on a boat, to swim or to go snorkelling. I love nature itself, I love to write, I love different cultures, different food and different people.

Pet peeve?

Patients who are afraid to give feedback and say yes on everything.

Biggest fear?

That life is not getting easier, economy wise.

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