Spreading the Word
For Mike, living with hemophilia pushes him to make the most of his life. Early on, it was a challenge to do all the things he wanted to do as an active kid. Once he learned which activities worked best for him, he set out to make the most of living with hemophilia. Today, Mike is a physical therapist whose passion is working with others living with bleeding disorders.
Mike talked with Hemophilia Forward® about his journey with hemophilia and why working with others in the bleeding disorders community is so rewarding.
Hemophilia Forward (HF): Welcome Mike, and thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Mike and I’m a physical therapist, but my patients call me Dr. Mike. I’m 30 years old and have severe hemophilia A. However, if you were to meet me, you might not know it. I’ve worked hard in my life to take care of my health so I can stay as active as I’m able to with hemophilia. I haven’t let hemophilia define me, but that wasn’t always the case growing up.
What was it like for you growing up?
I felt different than other kids when I was young. I wasn’t supposed to run around with my friends and play contact sports. I have to be honest—I didn’t always follow that advice, and this led to issues with my health. Most days, I tried not to think about it and pretended I didn’t have hemophilia. Back then, we didn’t have the same treatments we have today.
How did that experience impact your outlook on living with hemophilia as an adult?
As I became older and recognized the benefits of staying active, I realized there was a lack of education available for patients. Growing up, I never saw a physical therapist. I never had someone talk to me about how I could safely be active and exercise. In fact, it wasn’t until I was 23 and in graduate school that I met another person with hemophilia. Once I did, I knew I wanted to help others living with bleeding disorders, and I knew I wanted to make a career out of helping to fill that gap.
Today, I’m a physical therapist who works with a broad range of people, including people of all ages living with hemophilia and other bleeding disorders. I became a physical therapist because I saw how exercise transformed my life and I wanted to help other people who have hemophilia safely experience the same thing. People shouldn't live solely by their diagnosis. By working together with their healthcare provider, they can live their life to its fullest potential.
What are your main goals for yourself?
My main goal is to help as many people as I can and be known in the community as the physical therapist for hemophilia and bleeding disorders. Since I didn’t have access to education about hemophilia or physical therapy growing up, I want to be the best resource for people in the community for this type of education. For those people I can’t meet in my clinic, I share my experience and expertise at conferences across the country to raise awareness and bring an educational component. I focus the presentations on aquatic therapy, exercise on land, or kinesiology taping for overall joint support. I also get this information out via social media, like Facebook, Instagram, and my YouTube channel, “HemoDoc.”
What is the main goal when working with your patients with hemophilia?
I want to first figure out what their goals are. Not everyone has an interest in sports or exercise. Some people’s focus is on reducing their pain or increasing their mobility. I teach them strategies for what they can do in their everyday life to achieve their goals. I strongly believe in getting ahead of hemophilia by educating early. For younger kids, seeing a physical therapist can make a big difference in teaching them how best to stay healthy and manage their activity, setting up strong habits that can last a lifetime.
What advice do you have for those who want to be more active?
First, it’s important to work with your doctor and physical therapist at the same time to ensure they are on the same page and to determine what activities are safe. There’s always a risk of injury, even for people without hemophilia.
Second, don’t give up–even if you don’t get results in 2 weeks. It’s a long process and you have to work towards being consistent and positive. When you believe you’re going to improve, you will.
Hemophilia Forward recognizes that everyone’s experiences are different, and this is only one person’s experience. Visit your healthcare professional before starting any physical activity to develop a plan that works best for you.