SHE WAS so proud of him. Eric Torres’s full-ride scholarship for a mechanical engineering degree made his family proud. His grandmother was his rock and the most significant difference-maker in his life besides his parents. But what would the future hold now? While he was in college, a stroke hospitalized his beloved grandmother. Sitting with her in the hospital, he watched over the woman who’d always watched over him, her constant motion stilled by a stroke.
Early the next morning, a man arrived rolling a cart with a specialized machine. He carefully placed the corded pads on her lifeless limbs and began the procedure. This was like nothing Torres had ever seen!
“He proceeded to put the electrodes on Grandmother’s right leg and right arm, her paralyzed side. He turned it on, and her arm started to move, and I was incredibly amazed,” Torres said.
He had to know more and asked the man if he was a nurse. He said he was a physical therapist.
“What is a physical therapist?” Torres asked him.
His reply changed the trajectory of Torres’s life.
“I’m going to simplify this by saying that I am the person who’s going to help your grandmother walk again,” he replied.
A career in the oil industry could not answer that question, and he realized the certainty of it as he looked at his grandmother following her stroke. That moment ignited hope for his grandmother’s recovery, and his career path changed immediately to physical therapy.
“I wanted to make a difference, not only with Grandma but for the people I would meet in my lifetime,” said Torres. “I gave up mechanical engineering because I saw the pain in Grandmother’s eyes, and I said, ‘I am so helpless. How do I help this woman who has had a pivotal role in my life growing up?’”
The hope he received in the early morning hours at his grandmother’s bedside is the same hope he delivers to his patients today. It’s a hope his mother understands, too, after therapy for knee replacement.
She told him, “When you are sick, sometimes it is very hard to pray and to believe. When praying to your God, whom you cannot see, hear, feel, touch, or smell, it’s hard to continue to say that you want to be healed. But when somebody walks in like you, Eric, you are actually that healing extension of God. You have the responsibility to make sure that you represent correctly.”
He knows the experience in his grandmother’s hospital room was a divine appointment.
“We all have these plans for our lives early on, but ultimately, God will lead you where you can be used in your lifetime. I believe in that; I stand on that,” said Torres.
Today, Torres has been working to bring patients hope, rehabilitation, and healing for 36 years in various settings, meeting people with all kinds of diagnoses and conditions. He’s worked in outpatient services, skilled nursing homes, hospitals, acute care, and inpatient rehab. He has served in home healthcare the longest and is a therapist for Deaconess Home Health in Fayetteville.
It’s good medicine, and he enjoys the progression as it takes effect.
“When I first walk in, I see all the anxiety and hopelessness in the patient’s eyes, especially if it’s a bad case like paralysis or something terminal. Then, to be able to see some patients be able to walk 10 feet after being hospitalized for three months — that’s a big deal. You can see the joy on their faces. There is hope and a silver lining,” he said. “Toward the end [of their therapy], I see the faces of families involved in the patient care, and their demeanor changes for the better, too.”
When the opportunities arise to address students in the physical therapy training screenings, his most vital message urges them to offer both care and compassion.
Torres said, “If you do not have an ounce of compassion for your patients when you become a physical therapist, you are not going to be the person that needs to be doing this job. It takes more than a skill set; it takes 110% compassion to provide the services you’re supposed to provide. Hopefully, those kids will remember that when they become therapists.”
He said, “I get up in the morning and look forward to meeting my patients for the day.”
And they look forward to their days with him.
Patients and their families remember the kindness Torres showed and frequently request him for future home therapy and assistance. It affirms his decision to pursue his dream to make a difference and honor his grandmother’s memory.
“When I walk into a patient’s house, I’m privileged to be in their home. I have a responsibility to be the best I can be,” said Torres.
His best offers his patients the hope and healing they all deserve. GN