Hometown: Morganfield, Kentucky
Job: Staff Physical Therapist with Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center
Resume: Physical therapist, Deaconess Hospital, 1979-1980; staff physical therapist, Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, 1980-1982 and 1992-present; supervisor of physical restoration, Easter Seals, 1982-1987; and Director of Rehab Services, Easter Seals, 1988-1992. She also has founded a wheelchair basketball program; co-founded a Taekwondo class for individuals with special abilities; been involved with Riding Hope, a horseback riding program for those from age 2 to 18 with disabilities; helped established the iCan Bike camp at Easter Seals; coordinated Fitness Awareness Days, showing adaptations for different activities to those with disabilities; and volunteers time to speak to University of Evansville students. Balbach also is a board member for the Evansville Trails Coalition, which promotes the establishment of trails throughout the city.
Family: Husband, Bob, one daughter, Emily, 26, and one son, Scott, 23.
Growing up, Patty Balbach was an avid viewer of the annual Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Labor Day Telethon, a campaign started in 1966 to raise awareness and funds for families and MDA programs. She knew at the age of 12 as she watched caregivers help children learn to walk that she wanted to be a physical therapist. After completing her studies at the Indiana University, Balbach worked 11 months at Deaconess Hospital before she accepted an opportunity to join the staff at Easter Seals to fulfill her dream of working with children. Thirty-six years later, Balbach continues to give her all to her clients of all ages and researches ways to introduce new programs to Easter Seals to benefit the community.
What do you strive to accomplish through your work?
I want to provide my clients with the best possible situation … they may be in a wheelchair all the time, but there (may be) ways that we can work so they can use braces and walk for short distances, even if it’s just in the house or to get in a place that’s inaccessible. I want to provide them with as much opportunity and ability to maximize their potential and have the best of both worlds so to speak so they can be as functional in their daily lives (as possible).
I also want to help the families enjoy that individual for the person they are and provide them with the most independence and the best function they can possibly have.
Is there an achievement that you are most proud of?
I’ve always tried, and I feel like I take pride in that, to improve myself. I always wanted to be aware of the latest things. I’ve gotten my Neuro-Development Treatment certification, which is a two-month course … and my Pediatric Clinical Specialist certification, which was a very stressful, difficult test.
I feel like I’ve always strived to be on top of things, always be the best therapist, and have the most up-to-date knowledge I could provide to my patients. I feel like I’ve done that for 36 years.
What has always driven you in your career?
I’ve never been driven by money or anything. I’ve strictly been driven by the love of this job. I truly love being a physical therapist. I truly love the interaction with my clients. I would work for free basically because I do what I do because I love the occupation. I think you have to truly love — and I think the majority of therapists do — what you do and that’s your driving force. I feel like that’s always been mine. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The two things I always tell students and that I always have tried to do are: I treat all my clients as I would want to be treated. I put myself in their place and listen to what they say and respond to them, as I would hope someone would to me.
Two, I always try to have fun in treatment sessions. It is an unfortunate situation and no one wants to have a life-changing injury or have a child with a disability, but it happens, so you might as well make therapy as enjoyable as possible.