Live Life Physiotherapy

First Tackling Pain then the World

Mary Skinner poses outside her home, happy and confident after working with Live Life Physiotherapy.

Mary Hogan wasn’t supposed to meet Karl Burris, DPT, PT of Live Life Physiotherapy. But, as she says, “meeting Karl was serendipity”—and it changed her life.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mary Hogan, a retired special education teacher, found herself searching for a mobile physical therapist. A recent fall had hurt her knee and she was desperate to slow down the aging process.

She researched a few physical therapy clinics online and called a number, thinking it was for the PT clinic just down the hill from her home.

When the physical therapist arrived at her house at the scheduled time, they started talking and Mary immediately trusted him. It wasn’t until they were halfway through the conversation that Mary realized Live Life Physiotherapy was based in Santee – not the College Area location she thought she called.

Karl Burris, PT, DPT, reassured her that he could still visit regularly – after all, that’s a benefit of mobile physical therapy services.

Beyond Standard Physical Therapy

Mary signed up for a few sessions, with the main goal of addressing her knee pain. She’d been to physical therapy before, where she says, “they gave me six exercises and saw me for 12 visits. When my time was up, it was up, and I was left alone.”

She didn’t know then, but her experience with Live Life Physiotherapy would be unlike any other physical therapy she’d had before—and it would change her life in more ways than she ever expected.

“At the beginning, Karl started telling me about his care philosophy, and at first, I was like, ‘yeah yeah – just fix my knee.’ But then I realized he really cared about me and wanted me to succeed. He saw what I needed before I did.”

Karl’s care philosophy centers around the belief that providing care means caring for the whole person, not just the diagnosis – and looking at the big picture of what patients need to be functional and enjoy their lives. So while Mary was focused on repairing her knee, Karl saw an introvert who was becoming hesitant, doubtful, and potentially reclusive as she aged – and he wanted to help her physically and emotionally.

In that first consultation, Karl was able to see Mary’s home, and he noticed she was having difficulty navigating the many steps all over her house. “I learned Mary wanted to stay independent and grow old in the house that she loves,” Karl remembers. “So just treating her knee pain wasn’t an option.  She needed to increase her functional strength and balance to get up those steps!”

After a few months of regular physical therapy sessions, Mary’s knee improved, and Karl’s consistent encouragement that Mary’s life could improve in other ways began to set in, so their time together continued.

You Can Get It if You Really Want

Karl helped Mary set small, progressive goals that were designed to help her stand up straighter, improve her balance, and address her chronic back pain. And because the physical therapy sessions took place in her home, Mary was able to see improvement in her daily life as it became easier to do basic activities around the house.

If this was a movie, this is when we’d see a video montage of Mary and Karl working together, consistently, to make small strides that add up to improving Mary’s entire life. The song “You Can Get It if You Really Want” by Jimmy Cliff would be playing in the background, because that’s a song they often listened to together.

If you’re not familiar with the song, here are some of the lyrics:

“You can get it if you really want
But you must try, try and try, try and try
You’ll succeed at last, I know it.
You’ve got your mind set on a dream.
You can get it, though hard it may seem now.”

Before she started physical therapy with Karl, daily activities were challenging for Mary. “Going to the bank and standing in line was just awful,” she recalls. And it was difficult to walk around her neighborhood, which is pockmarked with tree roots cracking the sidewalk and awkward elevation changes between the gutter and her driveway.

Now, Mary has more confidence in what her body can handle. For many sessions, Karl focused on activities that would improve her balance, increase her endurance, and train her mind so she knows how to catch herself before a fall.

Karl kept the sessions lively – even meeting Mary at the local pool so she could benefit from aquatic therapy – and always connecting the exercises back to the goals Mary had set for herself.

“Mary and I have developed a great relationship over the years,” Karl explains. “There has never been an identical session, even though we do similar exercises, which is great because she’s been able to see great strides in her progress.”

Positive Changes Add Up

All around Mary’s house are signs of the new life she’s worked to create. On her back door, you’ll find a laminated note card from Live Life Physio that includes positive affirmations and a reminder of her goals. There’s a home gym in the backyard, complete with a stationary bike and hand weights. Her phone will ping with daily coaching reminders and check-ins.  Atomic Habits by James Clear, one of Karl’s favorites, sits on the top of her to-read pile.

“Karl has helped me see that it’s not about being perfect, and it’s not about screwing up,” Mary says. “It’s about today. He’s taught me to ask myself, ‘What are you doing today?’ and to answer my own question with ‘I’m enjoying today.’”

She’s also learned about self-compassion and the importance of curating a healthy mindset.

“Karl taught me that it’s not about numbers and metrics – it’s more important to get my head in a place that sees the future, and in a way where I believe it’s possible,” Mary explains. “When my head is there, it’s amazing – everything else falls in line. I’ll work hard because I really want to live that life.”

Looking Forward to the Future

Today, Mary has new goals for herself. She’s determined to lose even more weight and get stronger. She wants to get back into the pool, where she’s always had an affinity for the lightness of the water. And she reminisces of her childhood bowling league. For years, Mary believed her bowling days were over. But now, she and Karl are working with 10 lb weights – about the weight of a standard bowling ball – and she has a twinkle in her eye when she says, “Well, maybe I can bowl again one day. We’ll see.”Karl is excited for Mary’s future. “She’s really embraced lifestyle and habit changes that take a lot of dedication. I can only make suggestions and provide encouragement,” Karl says. “Mary is the one sustaining the effort over the long-term, and that dedication is showing in many aspects of her life!”There’s a spark in her eyes as she realizes the endless possibilities in her future, which now includes movement and activities that she thought were only memories. “Where would I be if I hadn’t met Karl,” she muses.

About Live Life Physiotherapy

Live Life Physiotherapy provides customized mobile physical therapy in San Diego to those who need it, where they need it. Every day, we help residents of La Mesa, El Cajon, Santee, Lakeside, Del Cerro, San Carlos, and the surrounding areas with their physical therapy needs by removing many of the common restrictions and challenges of traditional physical therapy. Our ultimate goal is to help you live your best life.

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