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Physical therapist finds satisfaction in helping people
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Photo: Gary Krambeck/gkrambeck@qconline.com
Rock Valley Physical Therapy therapist Chad Humphrey.
It's a dark and bitter winter morning and the 38-year-old father of three battled blistering winds and blowing snow to get to work.

It's a shade before 6 a.m., and the 30-mile drive to work has relaxed him for the day.

Soon, a waiting area will be filled with high-school athletes and adults looking for hope. Like everyone Chad Humphrey treats, they are injured or surgically repaired, with something amiss physically. Frustration and hope are common; progress can be tricky.

"If there is one challenge with what we do, it's that everyone wants to be 100 percent now,'' said Mr. Humphrey, a physical therapist and site manager for Rock Valley Physical Therapy's 43rd Avenue, Moline complex.

Mr. Humphrey, whose wife, Sara, is a middle-school teacher, has been with Rock Valley for 11 years.

"Like anyone who does what I do, we feel for the people we work with," he said. "We want the best for everyone and success to be easy, but that's not always the case.

"Patience is a word that has to be used a lot in our world, but success is waiting to happen. And when it does, I'm lucky that I get to be part of it. The rewards outweigh any frustration.''

Mr. Humphrey, a standout prep football player at Cambridge High School, left his outpatient therapist job at a Galesburg hospital to join Rock Valley. He said he wanted to work for a locally owned company with a mission he believed in and to work in the sports medicine field.

"It was a chance to work for a company where ownership and leadership of the business was led by physical therapists,'' Mr. Humphrey said of Rock Valley, founded by therapists Steve Layer and Marc Levsen in 1984.

"That said, my time at OSF St. Mary's (Galesburg) was amazing, but the chance to work for legends in the field like Steve and (Rock Valley CEO) Eric Sacia, you cannot miss that opportunity.

"Despite the amazing growth of the business, Rock Valley's focus has remained local and relationship-oriented. Our orthopedic-care goals have remained the same and you enjoy coming to work when the environment is positive.''

It's the relationships formed through the years that make 10-to-12 hour-days pass quickly and the 60-mile round trip a breeze on most days. In addition to his clinical work, Mr. Humphrey is the on-field physical therapy liaison for Orion High School football games.

"The people you meet and the friendships and bonds you make are what drives all of us in this business,'' said Mr. Humphrey, a dedicated St. Louis Cardinals fan who also might be the world's biggest Frosted Mini-Wheats breakfast cereal fan.

"And that's just with the people you work with. Whether it's helping an athlete get back to competing or enhancing the quality of life for others, few other jobs are as rewarding.''

His prep football career landed Mr. Humphrey at Knox College in Galesburg, where he played quarterback his freshman year. An ankle injury cut short his playing career and also changed his career path.

He transferred to Augustana College, where he earned his bachelor's degree. He then earned his master's degree in physical therapy at Washington University in St. Louis. Physical therapy, however, was not Mr. Humphrey's initial career choice.

"My wife is a Hall of Fame middle-school teacher,'' said Mr. Humphrey, a Cambridge School Board member. "Just amazing at what she does. And I entertained thoughts of teaching and coaching when in college, because I had so many great influences on my life in school and through athletics.

"In college, though, I was an assistant junior high track coach one spring and realized I wasn't the right person to be a school teacher and all that comes with it. I have great admiration for those who teach, but I made the right career choice.''

Health care is a slippery slope these days, but Mr. Humphrey said the red tape is just that -- red tape.

"I get all the bumps in the road, but it has not and will not change how we treat those who need our help,'' Mr. Humphrey said.

"People will always need what we offer and those of us in this business will always need the satisfaction of helping and the relationships that are formed from it. I couldn't imagine doing anything else.''

Local events heading

  Today is Tuesday, Oct. 21, the 294th day of 2014. There are 71 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The weather is discouraging for our great Democratic rally tomorrow, but never mind that. Let our Rock Island people show they can make a big procession themselves, rain or shine.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Apparatus arrived for drilling an artesian well on the premises of George Warner's Atlantic Brewery.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The German army continued its attacks on the allies line near the Belgian coast.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The farm home of Mr. and Mrs. Gus Zachert northwest of Buffalo Prairie, burned to the ground.
1964 -- 50 years ago: WVIK-FM, noncommercial educational radio station at Augustana College, will return to the air tomorrow. The station operates at a power of 10 watts at 90.9 megacycles on the frequency modulation band. The station is operated with a staff of 92 students.
1989 -- 25 years ago: An avenue of lights, 13 Christmas trees strung with more than 44,000 sparkling lights, will expand the Festival of Trees beyond the walls of RiverCenter in downtown Davenport in mid-November.

(More History)