An ordinary night of picking up takeout for dinner took an unexpected turn for Alyssa Martinez, a second-year student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, when she put her newly acquired medical skills to use to help save a man’s life.
“I noticed that a gentleman was having trouble walking; he was grabbing onto nearby objects like trash cans and mail-drops to help him balance. I asked him if he needed some help crossing the street,” Martinez said.
He agreed and held onto her arm while they crossed the street, but as they were walking, he was having increased difficulty taking steps.
“He told me that he couldn’t feel his legs and that he couldn’t lift them up,” she said. It took about three light cycles to get safely across the street, and Martinez asked him if this was typical. The gentleman replied that it had never happened before and said he wasn’t sure what was happening.
After they were safely across the street, Martinez asked the man if he would mind bringing his mask down so she could see his face and check for any asymmetries. She noticed that one corner of his mouth was drooping down relative to the other side. She shared her concerns with him and asked for his permission to call an ambulance. The EMTs arrived quickly, and took him to the hospital. Martinez asked if they could call her and let her know that everything was okay. She received a call the next morning and learned that the gentleman was having a stroke.
“They told me that he had been admitted and was stable and that it was a good thing that I had called.”
The fact that Martinez used her skills to identify a potential medical emergency and took swift action is significant, since time is a factor in the long-term effects and survival of people experiencing a stroke.
“I’m very happy that I was able to be there to help. I’m looking forward to applying this same knowledge and being of help to others throughout my career as a PT,” said Martinez.
Read a Q&A with Martinez below.
Where are you from and where did you attend undergrad?
I am originally from Bosque Farms, New Mexico. After I graduated high school, I moved to Denver, Colorado and attended Regis University where I graduated with my BS in Neuroscience.
Why did you choose Feinberg?
I chose Feinberg for many reasons. When I attended the open house at Northwestern University’s Department of Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences, I was blown away by the curriculum, the faculty, and the students that shared their experiences with the program. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and invested time into conversations with all of the visiting students. It felt very comfortable and natural for me, thanks to the faculty and both current and prospective students.
Why did you want to become a PT?
I wanted to become a physical therapist because I wanted to help people. I wanted to help people gain back their independence and function after injury or insult so that they can get back to doing the things they love. I want to be able to enhance their quality of life as much as possible while also empowering them to be and do what makes them whole. It is the most rewarding thing to have some role in making that happen.
What are your research and clinical interests?
I am most interested in pursuing a career, both in research and clinically, as a Neurologic Physical Therapist. I am fascinated with the brain, its constant state of change, and its role in the many aspects of movement.
What advice would you give to prospective PT students?
Be yourself, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, be active in your own learning, and make sure to take time to take care of yourself and have fun.
What has been your most rewarding experience as PT student?
I think my most valuable and most rewarding experience so far as a PT student is actually working with patients in the clinic, and this is true for several reasons. First, it is so rewarding to see that all of your hard work and all the countless hours of studying, practicing and learning challenging material in school was worth it. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to apply all of those skills and all of that knowledge in the clinic and make a difference in the lives of these patients.
Most importantly, it’s so rewarding to be able to work closely with patients and their families and to help facilitate results. As physical therapists, we have such a unique opportunity to affect so many aspects of someone’s life—being able to help someone get back to doing what they love or helping them to gain back some degree of their independence is easily the most rewarding part of this profession.
Are you involved in any extracurricular activities at Feinberg?
Currently, I am part of the Neuroscience Student Special Interest Group. I also volunteer with a number of people at NUPT with CYP (Chicago Youth Programs) doing a Read-To-Me program with first and second graders!