Editors note: Elaine Toth was nominated by a Patch reader when Patch asked readers to tell us about amazing workers in our community to celebrate Labor Day 2012.
Elaine Toth knows exactly when she decided to train as a physical therapy assistant. While in high school, she knew of a football player who broke his neck, but eventually returned to school because of the excellent medical care he received.
Recognizing the role that physical therapy had played in helping the football player, she thought to herself, “Wow, that would be very rewarding.”
Toth, 58, has worked as a physical therapy assistant for 38 years even though for the past 14 years she has battled rheumatoid arthritis.
She has also had a knee replacement. “Some days my feet hurt, some days my hands hurt,” she admitted. “But the best medicine is to stay active and not just sit.”
Also, because she had a knee replacement, she is in a good position to be able to encourage others with joint replacements to exercise and get better.
Because of her years of experience, she tries to be a mentor to some of her co-workers. “I encourage people to come to me and use me as a resource,” Toth said. My suggestions may or may not work, but it’s worth trying.”
Her work experience includes eight years with her current employer, Lehigh Center in Lower Macungie. The facility is run by the Genesis Rehabilitation division of the Genesis Health Care Corp.
Prior to coming to Lehigh Center, Toth worked at Allentown General Hospital, Lehigh Valley Hospital, and Valley Manor in Coopersburg.
Some of the people Toth helps at Lehigh Center are permanent residents of the facility and others are there for temporary medical care.
“Our goal is to get them to the highest functional level possible,” Toth said. “Everybody has a basic need to do as much as possible for themselves. That’s human nature.”
She compares her role as a physical therapy assistant, working in conjunction with physical therapists, to the difference between a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse. The physical therapist does the initial assessment of a patient and establishes the goals, then the physical therapist assistant works with a patient to aim for those goals.
“I really enjoy the geriatric population,” Toth said. “In our society, at times they aren’t revered as much as they should be.”
People are living longer these days because of better medications and medical help, she said, adding that in physical therapy, “I feel we have a lot to offer.”
Toth has a daughter and a son, and lives in Schnecksville with her daughter and two grandchildren. She helps drive her grandchildren to after-school events.
“Why sit around?” she asked. “Stay active. I like what I do. When I go home at night, I feel that I have made a difference.”