my name is susan and i'm a hypochondriac. perhaps that explains why i know more about preventive medicine than some of manhattan's best doctors-whom i see. thus, gentle reader, for the new year i'm giving you the name of a gifted healer: heather case, sole proprietor of case specialty physical therapy and a young woman who's performed miracles on me. just keep your mitts off my monday and wednesday 4:40 slots. until three years ago, despite courses of treatment by equinox physical therapists, i was resigned to hurting knees. if i mentioned pain to my tight-lipped orthopedist at the hospital for special surgery, he offered to cut my knees open to "clean out loose cartilage." i was reduced to wearing chunky sneakers and long skirts to hide steel-enhanced knee bandages. also, since my tenure at warner brothers films, i get bouts of lower-back pain. my fellow studio executives loved dirty tricks: i was always ducking (metaphoric) punches-hell on the back. during that time, i spent nights on a wet heating pad and days in thermacare heat belts. lying on heather case's table for the first time, i tensely checked out her framed degrees: a diploma from mills college, a california school for super-rich girls (it turns out she had a full scholarship), as well as an advanced degree from nyu school of physical therapy-it's the best and costs a mint.
nonetheless, i didn't quite take to heather. she seemed a gorgeous blond actress playing a physical therapist. too perfect. i was the surly patient whom she danced around like we were a broadway musical. (yes, she's a former dancer and her office is aptly located in the theater district, in the actors' equity building.) heather had big plans for my poor knees. first she (much too cheerfully i felt) confiscated my two steel-enhanced knee bandages. she insisted i do leg lifts, after which she piled ice on sore muscles above my knees. slowly, miraculously, my knee pains decreased. i am a city walker again. despite my gratitude, i rarely spoke to heather. i can't bear it when personal trainers or therapists or dentists drone on. i get trapped by my politeness until i feel murderous. i know other writers who suffer similarly. we get brain pain (we who turn sentences around in our heads all day) when someone uses words poorly. but one day i mentioned a david sedaris story in the new yorker that had stuck to me. heather knew the story chapter and verse and recommended another. startled, i read it-a miracle! heather was soon digging like a mind-reader into the muscles over the pinched nerves in my back. i was astounded as spasms abated some. i overheard her talking about a sick dolphin on a beach in costa rica. she'd carried it into the sea and held it until it swam away. meanwhile, i read in one of my medical newsletters that a few smart physical therapists were strengthening knee muscles, eliminating cartilage operations. i suddenly began talking to heather. frequently babbling without censoring my thoughts. amazing talks, we have. she enlightens me on things from niagara falls (she's canadian) to neck musculature to michael jackson. it's a phenomenon. psychologists say something otherworldly happens when someone touches you and alleviates pain. all i know is that gratitude is such a great feeling. thank you, thank you, heather.
author and journalist susan braudy's most recent book is the boudins and the aristocracy of the left, published by alfred knopf. her email address is email@example.com.