Entering Adrie Min’s dark little office, this writer remarked, “You need some light in here.”
Min responded in his usual light and playful manner, “I am the light.” More banter continued until the interview began. An interview which seemed to have many references to light and energy and the like.
Adrie Min has been a physical therapist - allied health practitioner - for many years. “We help doctors to get people better. Generally, doctors refer patients to physical therapists for musculo-skeletal problems. Most of my patients are outpatients, but I also see hospital patients and long term care patients. Physical therapy can be especially helpful for patients with pain problems, disabilities and breathing problems. It is good to see people get back on their feet and to the next level of care with family, relatives, out of rehab or the hospital, back to a home environment.”
Adrie began his career (internship) in a burn center in Holland. He assisted patients with breathing (there were no respiratory therapists in Holland at that time), clearing their airways, and in preventing contractures from burn scars.
Holland has socialized medicine, so things are a bit different over there. Sometimes for the better and sometimes not. With most musculoskeletal problems, patients are usually sent to a physical therapists first. When this is unsuccessful, patients are referred to the appropriate specialist. In the US, they often go early on to orthopedic specialists and later to physical therapy. The European approach seems to have some advantages.
Adrie Min projects a warmhearted manner and his patients get to know his soft healing touch. Many physical therapists emphasize exercise. “Exercise, exercise, exercise. But, I’m a hands-on person. Hands-on, hands-on, hands-on. I like to look at people in a holistic way. Rather than a knee problem coming in the door. It’s a person with a knee problem, he or she has a whole person problem.
[Sir William Osler, the Father of American medicine is remembered for saying, “It is much more important to know what kind of patient has a disease than what kind of disease a patient has.” authors note]
How did he develop that hands-on approach? Early on in Adrie’s PT career, he practically specialized in massage and mobilization work while in Holland. “It was part of my training, but I also took a lot of continuing education classes to improve my skills. Massage and mobilization works mostly with the soft tissues. Moving muscles and fascia. Pain has much to do with the accumulation of waste products in the tissues. These methods enhance circulation and promotion excretion of wastes. From another angle, it helps to move body energy.”
Min has been a PT (physical therapist) since 1979. He has added to his education and studies in many ways over the years and finds time to take one or two continuing ed programs every year. Workshops and trainings in the likes of spinal mobilization, myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, shiatsu massage, reflexology, and primal reflex release add to his “toolbox.”
“I have a toolbox. I use different tools on different people. Sometimes, I use three tools on one person. I’m not specialized or limited to any one method. It’s simple. The more you know, the more you can help people, hopefully.”
Physicians generally don’t have a big interest in physical therapy. Drugs and surgery are the main focus of western medicine. But, Min recognizes that doctors need to have a larger view with respect to referrals. “There are so many choices for referral these days than just physical therapy.”
Adrie Min grew up twenty miles from Amsterdam, Holland. In high school, he wanted to be a physical education teacher. But, there was too much competition and he wasn’t selected. “Then, I thought I would be an elementary education teacher. But after one week I knew that wasn’t for me. I left school. My parents were pretty unhappy.”
Min worked in construction and later for the customs service at the Amsterdam harbor for two years. After visiting with a neighbor who was studying physical therapy at the time, Adrie thought, “Anatomy and physiology. I think I would like that.” Min attended the Haarlemse Akademie for Physiotherapy for four years graduating in 1979.
Adrie soon moved away from Amsterdam and home to Tilburg City close to the Belgian border. He worked at a physical therapy center (eventually with four other therapists) doing massage and mobilization work for 8 1/2 years. “It was a little bit of an outlaw PT clinic. We did things out of the ordinary. People came from all over the place. We couldn’t help everybody. But, helped a lot people. Many had problems which followed them after surgery.”
Adrie and wife Maria and two-year-old Marieke immigrated to Massachusetts in August 1988. “It was an adventure. Maria needed a LITTLE convincing.”
Adrie was sponsored by the Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield where he worked under temporary license until he took his PT exam in Boston in December. Min had studied English in high school and also visited Britain as a young person which made it easy for him to pass the TOEFL test.
The Mins moved to Billings in 1989 where Adrie worked for Dr. Tom Johnson’s orthopedic group for two years. Mr. Min later spent two years at the Rehab Center at Billings Clinics. He then went solo for about two more years prior to coming to WMH in 1994. Changes around managed care made it increasingly difficult for a single PT to work on his own.
What is the best part of his physical therapy work at Wheatland Memorial? “You oftentimes help people toward higher function, to be pain free, to enjoy life better. You can do it with your hands. No technology needed. Even out in the Sahara desert, you can help people without machines.”
What is the hardest part? “The paperwork is a nuisance. And, a doctor’s prescription is required for any patient to be seen. Even someone who just walks in off the street.”
Adrie Min became an American citizen in May in Billings. “It was a nice ceremony. I raised my hand with forty other people in front of a retired judge.”
Adrie and Maria Min have three children. Marieke is a senior in Carroll College and finishing school on an ROTC scholarship. Maarten is a US Marine serving in Iraq and expected home in November. Marion is a sophomore at Ryegate High School.
Adrie Min has many interests and studies some of which relate to his physical therapy profession. Some don’t. He was a student of tae kwon do for five years, earning a brown belt. He has taught that martial art and more recently has taught tai chi for adult ed in Ryegate for two years. Tai chi seems to be a better fit for Min’s light and gentle manner. “I took it up after I hurt my knee. It’s very mild on your whole body. It blends with chi kung. Chi kung is an exercise program which helps the body accumulate energy. Tai chi teaches one to move energy. They work together very well.”
Min has been a runner since age fourteen. He used to run every day. Now only three times a week. He has participated in the Heart and Soul Race in Billings, Peaks to Prairie Race, marathon relays and half marathons. Adrie ran one marathon only. That was in 1977 on the original course from Marathon to Athens, Greece. “It almost killed me. I enjoyed the first half. But, I hadn’t trained enough for the whole race.”
Min has helped organize five or six Healthy Heart races for Wheatland Memorial and most recently WMH’s Wind Farm Trail Challenge which was part of the Montana Festival of the Wind.
Hiking, running, teaching, and organizing compliment Min’s daily healing work at WMH. He also has a renewed interest in another old energy friend: dowsing or divining or water witching. This hobby goes back to Holland where he helped a friend dowse a well.
Min has been a member of the Big Sky Dowsers for five years. “It is one of those unexplainable things. The fact that science can’t explain it doesn’t matter to me. We can’t begin to explain life. I believe in Bigfoot and UFOs. Dowsing is about bringing subconscious awareness of subtle energies to the surface and putting them to use.” Just another way for Adrie Min to be about his light work.