My Story - To everyone out there chasing a dream

Hello everyone - My name is Lisa Reed PT, DPT and I am the founder of The Academy Physical Therapy. In light of all the recent changes happening in my life, I’ve decided that maybe I should share my story in hopes that maybe parts of it resonate with somebody out there who has doubts about chasing their dream. Until now, I have hidden these parts of my past because I was afraid that they would be viewed as weaknesses and I didn’t want to make excuses for my failures, but I’m starting to learn that they may indeed be my greatest strengths.

Its no secret that am 5 feet and 4.5 inches tall (yes, I claim that half inch), yet aspiring to be a professional beach volleyball player - although I never played indoor and the majority of my competitive sports background is in basketball, track, and gymnastics. 

I’m short even though my whole family is tall in part because my growth was stunted after I was born critically ill. My parents’ neighborhood burned down in a fire when my mother was pregnant with me. During this time, my mother experienced a pre-mature rupture of her amniotic sac, which resulted in me being born with a wide spread infection in every organ of my body. After over a month of treatment, the doctors in the NICU saved my life against all odds and gave me a chance to give this thing called life a shot.

I was a stubborn little thing, but my work ethic and stubbornness also earned me a spot on the varsity basketball team as a freshman at 4 feet and 11 inches tall. I never would have stood a chance without the help of my club coach, Carrick DeHart, who ran me through drills at 6am every day before school in 8th grade. Thank you Carrick for being the first person who taught me how to bet on myself.

My dreams of playing college ball were interrupted when my car was T-boned by a drunk driver during my junior year and I sustained a brain injury. I tried to hide my symptoms from just about everyone because “I was fine” and blindsided by my stubborn ambition to play ball. I rushed back to playing too soon against doctor’s orders, which resulted in several concussions in close succession. The cascade spiraled and I lost all hope of a scholarship offer.

Basketball was my first love and I fought my way back to earn a brief walk-on spot at the D1 level. I started as a practice player and eventually earned a spot on the team, but I didn’t play in a single game. The experience was short lived because I was cut immediately when they hired a new coach - let’s be real who is going to invest in a 5 foot 4.5 inch tall senior walk-on when they are trying to build a new program?! 

I found beach volleyball in college when basketball fell apart for me, and to be honest, I was horrible at first - just ask my long time friend, Miles Evans, who is currently playing beach volleyball internationally and chasing his own dream of an Olympic debut. Bless his heart though because he played coed with me anyways and tried to teach me the game.

While stumbling around the beach on my own, a local coach in Santa Barbara, George Richardson, came up to me and told me to my face that I was “horrible,” but he also said that I was “super athletic and had a lot of potential.” From that day on I was hooked - I worked with him every Tuesday for 3 years and played volleyball with anyone and everyone pretty much everyday while bartending at night to save money for physical therapy school. 

I only applied to PT schools that were in proximity to the beach so that I could continue to play volleyball. It just so happened that USC was the #1 ranked program in the country, but I chose it for location over accolades if I’m being honest. When I made the move to LA, I decided to live in Manhattan Beach so that I could immerse myself in the mecca of beach volleyball. I woke up at 4:30am every day to beat traffic and workout before school and spent the entirety of my limited free time on the beach.

While in PT school, my neurological deficits progressed and became something that I could no longer ignore - it became apparent that “I wasn’t just fine.” I hit rock bottom and almost dropped out of school, but thankfully I found a neurological PT specialist, Pam Ressler, who essentially saved my life. I was in neuro rehab for 4 years, and I still continue to do my program daily in order to function at my current level. Thanks to Pam and my PT classmate, Allie Southam, I not only finished the program, but I graduated towards the top of my class from the #1 ranked program in the country.

After graduation, I took a job in Redondo Beach which allowed me to still play volleyball to some capacity while working full time as a physical therapist. Thank you to my former coworkers and my mentors Ryan Yamada, Keisuke Kano, and Lisa Meyer who all helped me grow and develop as a clinician.

Just when I thought that “I’d made it,” I had an accident last year that resulted in a spinal injury. The physician in the ER told me based on my exam findings that the only reason I wasn’t paralyzed was because I “had a strong core.” I didn’t like the answers that the physician’s gave me, and so I made up a treatment program for myself. Although admittedly misguided by my stubbornness to continue playing volleyball, the program worked and I bounced back. Some of the structural damage is irreversible, but I can still compete at a high level as long as I remain diligent about my rehabilitation program.

Around the same time that I injured my spine, I also learned that I had a tumor in my left forearm - directly on my passing platform. My left hand was numb for the entirety of last season and it hurt like crazy every time I shanked a ball off of the tumor site, but I didn’t tell anyone because I was afraid that people wouldn’t risk playing tournaments with me if they knew. A few weeks ago, I finally had it surgically removed on NYE 2018. Thankfully, it was benign and I’m healing well, however the surgery was more complicated than I hoped and they had to remove my entire radial artery.

Although less than ideal, the whole process with my tumor gave me a push to branch out on my own and start my own PT practice with an emphasis in injury prevention, wellness, and sports performance - blending my passions for my PT career with competitive sports. It’s all uncharted territory for me, but I’m excited about what this next chapter has in store!

Thank you to my family, Dan, Carol, and Nate, and all of the wonderful people who have supported me along the way! Special thanks to my best friend, Cassie House, for accepting me exactly as I am, and challenging me to turn my whole world upside down to chase the dream - to “fail more and fear less” and embrace my failures the same way that I do my successes. Another big thank you to my coach, Jennifer Snyder, for pushing me to break through one ceiling after another, and opening doors for beach volleyball and my PT career that I never imagined would be possible. So I’ll finally admit it out loud without fear that it “sounds stupid” - I’m chasing the dream of becoming a professional beach volleyball player and a pioneer in the field of physical therapy and injury prevention!

Coming at ya 2019! ✌🏻