Reviews

KIRKUS REVIEW

A bittersweet chronicle about caretaking for the nonlethal casualties of war.

As a dedicated physical therapist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Levine rehabilitated scores of American soldiers (predominantly men in their early 20s) deployed to and returning from war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan. Her memoir is comprised of vignettes chronicling the diligent work required to make the facility function and, more importantly, about the patients who filled its rooms with war stories and poignant personal histories, from the heartbreaking to the humor-laced. After a six-year tenure, Levine knowledgeably describes the cramped, fishbowllike “glassed-in gym” housing more than 100 patients at a time (all viewable by inquisitive tour groups) in the amputee unit where she and other therapists helped soldiers convalesce. She also outlines the finesse of amputations and prosthetics and allows a glimpse into her personal life as a single lesbian. Throughout her affable narrative, Levine celebrates the facility’s long history as the Army’s flagship medical center, yet her focus remains on the patient-care experience and the interactive camaraderie that is such an integral component to a soldier’s recovery. Among the more colorful characters are co-worker Jim, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who was also a compulsive baker and fledgling marathoner; a paranoid fellow physical therapist nicknamed “Major Crazy”; a prosthetist dubbed “Big Sexy”; and Walter, the unit’s service dog. However, emerging as the centerpiece of the collection is Cosmo, a defiant, foulmouthed, 22-year-old infantry soldier who was admitted with one leg blown off; he eventually became a double-amputee Levine describes as a man virtually “cut in half.” Ultimately, while her job is to physically restore these servicemen, it is seeing smiles of contentment or a long-awaited discharge that “makes the long hours and the physicality of our work worth it.”

A moving volume suffused with pain, hope and bravery.

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/adele-levine/run-dont-walk/

WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD

Is it possible to find humor in the interval between a soldier’s crippling encounter with a roadside bomb and his first confident steps on a pair of new limbs? In her new memoir, therapist Adele Levine puts this question under the microscope, balancing a comedian’s touch for uncovering the exceptional in seemingly bleak subjects with all the tact of a doting nurse unbandaging a tender wound.

“If there’s anything you need to be a physical therapist,” Levine says, “it’s a sense of humor.” It’s this approach that threads through her honest retelling of her experience as a physical therapist in Walter Reed’s amputee department, making for a book that’s both uplifting and informative.

Levine is helpfully descriptive in explaining ailments common to wartime amputees, their rehabilitative exercises — including learning to wear a prosthetic leg — and the jargon of P.T. culture. She’s equally intent on describing the history behind the now-defunct Army Medical Center, with its “puffy pink cherry trees” and its “stone stairs [sagging] in the middle from a hundred years of footsteps.”

But it’s Levine’s use of a colorful cast of characters and their anecdotes that forms the crux of the story, dispelling what she considers the public’s tendency to see the wounded soldier as a tragic figure. As she encounters a double amputee with a propensity for using foul language and ditching therapy sessions for cigarette breaks, a former lieutenant with a penchant for having baked goods smuggled into the hospital, and an errant service dog repeatedly disciplined for excessive napping and sneaking off to the cafeteria, the reader gets a feel for the camaraderie and redemption that come with the physical therapy trade.

Although Levine largely sidesteps the controversy surrounding the shuttering of the hospital in 2011, she’s honest in turning a critical lens on her young self, “an unmoored dinghy, bobbing aimlessly around,” who initially expected a “straight job,” complete with a cushy salary and a Ford Mustang. Instead, she faced a rough-and-tumble world of late nights and work demands that sometimes put relationships on hold.

By the end of the book, some of the most rewarding moments have come from witnessing the simultaneous growth of the patient and therapist, the latter in many ways just as misunderstood as the soldiers. “I never talked about my job and no one ever asked,” Levine writes. “I was just a good person stuck in the trenches of humanity.”

– Chris Lyford.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/book-review-run-dont-walk-by-adele-levine/2014/07/03/f635bd58-cbc6-11e3-a75e-463587891b57_story.html

WASHINGTONIAN TOP BOOKS FOR APRIL 2014
If you’re looking for a weepy inspirational book, run, don’t walk in the opposite direction–Levine isn’t here to jerk tears. Instead, she’s written a mordantly funny account of how soldiers and their rehab teams really make it through amputation, PTSD, and more. And it’s . . . an inspiration.

BOOKLIST

Is it possible to write a funny memoir about being a physical therapist who works with amputees at Walter Reed Army Medical Center? Surprisingly, yes. It helps that the soldiers hit by “improvised explosive devices” manage to keep a sense of humor. Some wear T-shirts with sayings like, “I Had a Blast in Afghanistan.” Others teasingly call each other names like “Ugly Stump.”

Colorful, expletive-spewing Cosmo is the central patient in Levine’s engaging story, though readers learn at the book’s conclusion thathe’s actually a composite figure created “for privacy reasons.” That aside, Levine shares fascinating historical tidbits about Walter Reed (which in 2011 closed its famous Washington, D.C., building and moved to Bethesda, Maryland), beginning with its being named after the young army doctor who discovered the cause of yellow fever.

Celebrity watchers will like learning that the prince among the many Hollywood stars who visit the wounded warriors is Project Runway star Tim Gunn. Levine also openly and admirably talks about her female partners. In all, an eye-opening and compassionate chronicle.

— Karen Springen

http://www.booklistonline.com/Run-Don-t-Walk-The-Curious-and-Chaotic-Life-of-a-Physical-Therapist-inside-Walter-Reed-Army-Medical-Center-Adele-Levine/pid=6657295

NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS
“Levine shines a light on the lives of soldiers and their families after the (perhaps) heroic welcome and the crowds have stopped cheering. It focuses on the time when it is up to them to cobble a life out of what is left of them.”

Run, Don’t Walk is a series of essays, each of which stands on its own, yet all of which connect. They provide a veritable “crazy quilt” picture of life at Walter Reed Army Hospital’s Amputee Clinic. And crazy it is.

Author Levine spares no detail, folding in human vice and virtue along with day- to-day realism of a world that few of us know. It is Walter Reed in the dark times of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. She points out how the advances in trauma care have helped to save lives, but also created a huge caseload of severely disabled soldiers in need of sophisticated rehabilitation. She alludes to the inevitably of budget cuts at a time of surging numbers.

We meet a key protagonist, Cosmo, who is actually a fictionalized collage of several soldiers—a technique that preserves confidentiality yet graphically illustrates many of the realities experienced by recovering veterans.

We learn of the complications involved and precise skills required to fit a prosthesis and the buck passing between prosthetist (experts who construct today’s highly technical limbs) and therapist who continually argue, but also show mutual respect. Levine describes the skill involved by her colleagues in “ cleaning up a gait deviation with a few clicks of an Allen Wrench.”

We develop affection for all of the major players, including the author herself, who makes no bones about her own human frailties and her feelings about working day in and day out in such a high-stress environment.

The author tells us that she chose physical therapy “because the hours were good and because it was a career that would spare me the heart-wrenching details of some of the other medical professions, notably death and terminal illness. It was a job that, at the end of the day, I could leave behind at the office. But that’s not how it turned out at Walter Reed. Even when I physically left the clinic, . . . I couldn’t keep my thoughts from flickering back to work. . . [where] everyone was struggling with how to live with devastating and permanent injuries.”

What is interesting is what is NOT said: “We never talked about the staggering injuries we saw. Why? To us it faded into the background of day-to-day normalcy. We were cheerful because we were living our lives inside the crowded theater that was the amputee clinic, where we played the role of therapist and soldier(s) played the role of patient and we entered stage left and exited stage right.” We encounter an endless line of celebrities and politicians—and even troops of clowns—who made highly visible visits. Some of them left in tears.

And yet the book is filled with irony and humor. For example, the item of choice for teaching an amputee balance and mobility turned out to be a set of five-dollar traffic cones, instead of the ultra high-tech, high-end treadmills and other devices supplied by the administration. The image of a child playing with the box in which an expensive toy is wrapped comes to mind.

Levine describes the signature pound cakes baked by Jim, a therapist who draws some reluctant veterans into the kitchen to join him in baking or eating and also allows them to forget that they are healing themselves in the process. Emma, another skilled therapist, provides a weekly lunchtime recitation of People magazine as workers gather to slurp up the juicy tidbits of gossip.

The author pokes some fun at the military modus operandi when the administration did not allow an electric coffee pot in the staff area. Instead, a staff member brought in an electric water kettle and another supplied a French press coffee maker—all in compliance with the letter of the law.

It is interesting to chart people’s reaction when mentioning this book in general conversation. It is either one of disinterest with eyes glazing over or outright groans. (“Wasn’t that depressing?”) To the latter question, the answer is “no.” Run, Don’t Walk did not produce angst or ennui. It is an honest account of one small section of a huge medical complex and a graphic commentary on the resilience of the human spirit.

Levine shines a light on the lives of soldiers and their families after the (perhaps) heroic welcome and the crowds have stopped cheering. It focuses on the time when it is up to them to cobble a life out of what is left of them. It should be required reading for any student or caregiver involved in post-war rehabilitation or even healthcare in general.

– See more at: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/run-dont-walk-curious-and-chaotic-life-physical-therapist-inside-walter-reed-army

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE:

Levine looks back at her six years working as a physical therapist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The memoir offers stories that are both devastating and sad, as Levine reflects on treating patients who have suffered trauma and had limbs amputated. The stories underscore the horrors of war and also the soldiers’ resiliency and camaraderie, as they pull pranks on one another and jokingly compare “stumps.”

THE BOOKWORM:

It all starts with baby steps.

Baby steps, with arm-waving balance and shaky testing of foot on floor. You held onto the fingers of someone bigger and more experienced at that sort of thing, one foot in front of the other before you finally got the hang of it all.

You probably don’t remember your first steps – unless it’s your second chance to learn how to make them. In the new book “Run, Don’t Walk” by Adele Levine, P.T., you’ll see how that can happen.

The call came at 0600. Sure that someone was dead (isn’t it always the case with calls like that?) Adele Levine answered the phone and learned that she was being granted an interview for a job as a physical therapist in the amputee clinic at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Levine had gone to PT school because of “several depressing rounds of unemployment.” PT had never been her “calling,” and she didn’t have big plans, other than to find a job close to her apartment. She figured that Walter Reed would be a temporary gig.

As it turned out, she loved the amputee clinic, and stayed for several years.

Surrounded by glass walls “The Fishbowl” was complete chaos, a “nonstop party” with visitors, cookies, and bent rules. Double- and triple-amputees worked with therapists to learn to be ambulatory with new prosthetic devices, and other patients hung around as support. Because of the glass, visitors could see what went on but Levine says that the soldiers barely noticed. They were too busy meeting new challenges.

Sometimes, the challenges were Levine’s.

Patients occasionally didn’t cooperate with their treatment, and needed warnings, encouragement, or just more understanding. Others really didn’t want to get better, finding the role of victim more appealing. Like most of her co-workers, Levine tried to create unusual ways to keep everyone – staff and patients alike – occupied, to keep them working on getting better, to keep them healthy in mind and body.

They did this, though personality clashes. They did it, while the injured never stopped coming. And they did it, though their clinic was closing in less than a year…

Paper cuts. They’re the worst, but I promise you that you’ll never whine about trifles like that again, once you’ve read “Run, Don’t Walk.”

With a sense of irony, a dose of humor, and beaming pride, author Adele Levine gives readers entertainment and lessons that are both sweet and sad. Her anecdotes are peopled by soldiers whose lives have been forever altered, therapists who show them that those lives aren’t over yet, and officers who offer support to both sides. This isn’t necessarily some sunny, feel-good book, though: Levine is plain about pain, roadside bombs, f-bombs, frustrations, injury and death.

This is one of those true stories that, when you’re done reading, you’ll wish you could read it again for the first time. And how could you resist a book like that?

Really – you can’t, so “Run, Don’t Walk” is a book you should take steps to find.

Terri Schlichenmeyer

http://www.greensburgdailynews.com/local/x2117376775/Run-Dont-Walk-by-Adele-Levine-P-T

FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER

“A lot of people are under the impression that there’s nothing technology can’t do. A lot of people – I would say most people – think that the new computerized and mechanized legs are bionic. That you can strap them on and they will walk for you.”

With those words, writer and physical therapist Adele Levine quickly eliminates any romanticized notions of veterans who have lost limbs in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Many, as Levine suggests, imagine that once an amputee receives a new leg or arm, it is a quick and easy job slipping back into their previous lifestyle. Levine’s unshakably honest memoir, covering the six years she worked at the renowned Walter Reed Army Medical Center (before it merged into the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in 2011), thwarts any such thoughts.

She gives readers an eye-opening view of the chaos that is physical therapy in the military. Fueled by the desire to help – and six or seven cups of coffee – Levine and her colleagues work tirelessly, sometimes spending 12 to 16 hours a day in the physical therapy gymnasium. The gym, a glass-walled room nicknamed “the Fishbowl,” witnesses its share of defeat and triumph. Each day is (sometimes literally) an uphill battle, reconciling patients with their new prostheticcs, dodging an assortment of no-nonsense officials and overbearing mothers, and battling the emotional upheaval that comes with losing a limb in war.

But “Run, Don’t Walk” does not paint these experiences in a purely melancholy light.

Levine delivers anecdotes with humor and raw honesty. She presents a memorable cast of characters including Cosmo, the rebellious, foul-mouthed amputee who would rather play his Xbox than show up for therapy; Jim, the foodie who bakes everyone a contraband birthday cake; Capt. Dumont, the straight-laced but selfless officer; and Melody, the youthful sexagenarian known fondly as “The Destroyer.”

Each chapter shows that it takes hope, hard work and dedication to move each patient from amputation to ambulation. A healthy dose of humor sprinkled in proves laughter really is the best medicine.

– Taylor S. Perry

http://www.fayobserver.com/elite/run-don-t-walk-the-realities-of-amputation-and-rehabilitation/article_a8123903-c4fe-5cc3-9def-d2d1151a9543.html

PRAISE:

“Adele has captured the unique, frenetic, protective world that was Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 2003 until its closure in 2011.  Her dedication and the dedication of all who labored mightily there to save and rebuild our Wounded Warriors’ broken bodies and detoured lives is an overlooked part of modern warfare.  Reading this book brought me right back to the hours I spent on a treatment table surrounded by my fellow Wounded Warriors as we pushed each other, using grit, gallows humor and even bribes of cookies in order to face yet another day of pain on our road back to our new futures. Read this book to gain a window into an aspect of combat and a cost that our troops, their families and their caretakers must bear that is no less heroic than those of the battlefield. ”
—Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, Iraq War Veteran, former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Run, Don’t Walk captures the essence of what it was like to be at Walter Reed during its darkest days. And it is told by one of the true un-sung heroes of the wounded from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: The Physical Therapist. It is heartbreaking and hilarious.  Levine captures the disappointments, the heartache and the triumphs of the injured troops and the spirit of those determined to save them.  Truly a remarkable book that tells a side of the war story very few ever witness or live to tell about.”
—Cami McCormick, CBS News Correspondent

“I’ve never read anything like Run, Don’t Walk, except possibly the first chapter of Catch 22. Humor heals, comforts, and saves. Don’t take my word for it. Read this magnificent book.”
—Josh Hanagarne, author of The World’s Strongest Librarian

“An amputee rehabilitation center is a crucible of emotion, and this book throbs with the pulse of a human heart. The characters are hilarious, harsh, eccentric, brave, and real, portrayed with tenderness and unflinching honesty. Yet Levine moved me more with what she didn’t say. A master of understatement, she paints a picture of what it’s like to work at this strange job, patching up broken soldiers only to be sent back to war— and tells her own story, setting her own sorrows and struggles beside the pain of her amputee patients.”
—Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine

 

Run, Don’t Walk is a series of essays, each of which stands on its own, yet all of which connect. They provide a veritable “crazy quilt” picture of life at Walter Reed Army Hospital’s Amputee Clinic. And crazy it is.

Author Levine spares no detail, folding in human vice and virtue along with day- to-day realism of a world that few of us know. It is Walter Reed in the dark times of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. She points out how the advances in trauma care have helped to save lives, but also created a huge caseload of severely disabled soldiers in need of sophisticated rehabilitation. She alludes to the inevitably of budget cuts at a time of surging numbers.

We meet a key protagonist, Cosmo, who is actually a fictionalized collage of several soldiers—a technique that preserves confidentiality yet graphically illustrates many of the realities experienced by recovering veterans.

We learn of the complications involved and precise skills required to fit a prosthesis and the buck passing between prosthetist (experts who construct today’s highly technical limbs) and therapist who continually argue, but also show mutual respect. Levine describes the skill involved by her colleagues in “ cleaning up a gait deviation with a few clicks of an Allen Wrench.”

We develop affection for all of the major players, including the author herself, who makes no bones about her own human frailties and her feelings about working day in and day out in such a high-stress environment.

The author tells us that she chose physical therapy “because the hours were good and because it was a career that would spare me the heart-wrenching details of some of the other medical professions, notably death and terminal illness. It was a job that, at the end of the day, I could leave behind at the office. But that’s not how it turned out at Walter Reed. Even when I physically left the clinic, . . . I couldn’t keep my thoughts from flickering back to work. . . [where] everyone was struggling with how to live with devastating and permanent injuries.”

What is interesting is what is NOT said: “We never talked about the staggering injuries we saw. Why? To us it faded into the background of day-to-day normalcy. We were cheerful because we were living our lives inside the crowded theater that was the amputee clinic, where we played the role of therapist and soldier(s) played the role of patient and we entered stage left and exited stage right.” We encounter an endless line of celebrities and politicians—and even troops of clowns—who made highly visible visits. Some of them left in tears.

And yet the book is filled with irony and humor. For example, the item of choice for teaching an amputee balance and mobility turned out to be a set of five-dollar traffic cones, instead of the ultra high-tech, high-end treadmills and other devices supplied by the administration. The image of a child playing with the box in which an expensive toy is wrapped comes to mind.

Levine describes the signature pound cakes baked by Jim, a therapist who draws some reluctant veterans into the kitchen to join him in baking or eating and also allows them to forget that they are healing themselves in the process. Emma, another skilled therapist, provides a weekly lunchtime recitation of People magazine as workers gather to slurp up the juicy tidbits of gossip.

The author pokes some fun at the military modus operandi when the administration did not allow an electric coffee pot in the staff area. Instead, a staff member brought in an electric water kettle and another supplied a French press coffee maker—all in compliance with the letter of the law.

It is interesting to chart people’s reaction when mentioning this book in general conversation. It is either one of disinterest with eyes glazing over or outright groans. (“Wasn’t that depressing?”) To the latter question, the answer is “no.” Run, Don’t Walk did not produce angst or ennui. It is an honest account of one small section of a huge medical complex and a graphic commentary on the resilience of the human spirit.

Levine shines a light on the lives of soldiers and their families after the (perhaps) heroic welcome and the crowds have stopped cheering. It focuses on the time when it is up to them to cobble a life out of what is left of them. It should be required reading for any student or caregiver involved in post-war rehabilitation or even healthcare in general.

– See more at: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/run-dont-walk-curious-and-chaotic-life-physical-therapist-inside-walter-reed-army#sthash.umvzYJXr.dpuf

 

Run, Don’t Walk is a series of essays, each of which stands on its own, yet all of which connect. They provide a veritable “crazy quilt” picture of life at Walter Reed Army Hospital’s Amputee Clinic. And crazy it is.

Author Levine spares no detail, folding in human vice and virtue along with day- to-day realism of a world that few of us know. It is Walter Reed in the dark times of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. She points out how the advances in trauma care have helped to save lives, but also created a huge caseload of severely disabled soldiers in need of sophisticated rehabilitation. She alludes to the inevitably of budget cuts at a time of surging numbers.

We meet a key protagonist, Cosmo, who is actually a fictionalized collage of several soldiers—a technique that preserves confidentiality yet graphically illustrates many of the realities experienced by recovering veterans.

We learn of the complications involved and precise skills required to fit a prosthesis and the buck passing between prosthetist (experts who construct today’s highly technical limbs) and therapist who continually argue, but also show mutual respect. Levine describes the skill involved by her colleagues in “ cleaning up a gait deviation with a few clicks of an Allen Wrench.”

We develop affection for all of the major players, including the author herself, who makes no bones about her own human frailties and her feelings about working day in and day out in such a high-stress environment.

The author tells us that she chose physical therapy “because the hours were good and because it was a career that would spare me the heart-wrenching details of some of the other medical professions, notably death and terminal illness. It was a job that, at the end of the day, I could leave behind at the office. But that’s not how it turned out at Walter Reed. Even when I physically left the clinic, . . . I couldn’t keep my thoughts from flickering back to work. . . [where] everyone was struggling with how to live with devastating and permanent injuries.”

What is interesting is what is NOT said: “We never talked about the staggering injuries we saw. Why? To us it faded into the background of day-to-day normalcy. We were cheerful because we were living our lives inside the crowded theater that was the amputee clinic, where we played the role of therapist and soldier(s) played the role of patient and we entered stage left and exited stage right.” We encounter an endless line of celebrities and politicians—and even troops of clowns—who made highly visible visits. Some of them left in tears.

And yet the book is filled with irony and humor. For example, the item of choice for teaching an amputee balance and mobility turned out to be a set of five-dollar traffic cones, instead of the ultra high-tech, high-end treadmills and other devices supplied by the administration. The image of a child playing with the box in which an expensive toy is wrapped comes to mind.

Levine describes the signature pound cakes baked by Jim, a therapist who draws some reluctant veterans into the kitchen to join him in baking or eating and also allows them to forget that they are healing themselves in the process. Emma, another skilled therapist, provides a weekly lunchtime recitation of People magazine as workers gather to slurp up the juicy tidbits of gossip.

The author pokes some fun at the military modus operandi when the administration did not allow an electric coffee pot in the staff area. Instead, a staff member brought in an electric water kettle and another supplied a French press coffee maker—all in compliance with the letter of the law.

It is interesting to chart people’s reaction when mentioning this book in general conversation. It is either one of disinterest with eyes glazing over or outright groans. (“Wasn’t that depressing?”) To the latter question, the answer is “no.” Run, Don’t Walk did not produce angst or ennui. It is an honest account of one small section of a huge medical complex and a graphic commentary on the resilience of the human spirit.

Levine shines a light on the lives of soldiers and their families after the (perhaps) heroic welcome and the crowds have stopped cheering. It focuses on the time when it is up to them to cobble a life out of what is left of them. It should be required reading for any student or caregiver involved in post-war rehabilitation or even healthcare in general.

– See more at: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/run-dont-walk-curious-and-chaotic-life-physical-therapist-inside-walter-reed-army#sthash.umvzYJXr.dpuf

 

 

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