As a young adult growing up in the Philippines with a passion for healthcare, Leslie Ann Manantan had no idea where her career would eventually take her.
She couldn’t have guessed or even imagined it would lead her to the small town of Statesville, nearly 9,000 miles from home, practicing physical therapy.
In observance of National Physical Therapy Month, celebrated in October, Manantan shares more about the role of a physical therapist and how physical therapy led her to Iredell Memorial Hospital.
Q: What is physical therapy?
A: “Physical therapists are experts in mobility,” explains Manantan. “It’s about the restoration of a patient’s function after a debilitating illness, injury, or surgery. We help our patients move and get back on their feet again.”
Physical therapists help people gain or regain the physical abilities they need for day-to-day functioning, working, or participating in sports or other activities.
“Most of these patients were very independent prior to their illness or injury and want to be able to get back to the things they were doing before. They want to be able to move around, go to the grocery store, and take care of themselves,” said Manantan.
Q: What drew you to physical therapy?
A: “Physical therapy was actually not my first love. My first love was nursing,” said Manantan.
Manantan was initially drawn to nursing because she looked up to her aunt, who was a nurse at Iredell Memorial Hospital. Wishing to follow in her aunt’s footsteps, Manantan enrolled in nursing classes at college in the Philippines.
“After enrolling, my aunt suggested I change my course. She said that physical therapy was in demand in the U.S., and she wanted me to be able to come work with her. Working in America was always a dream for me, even in my elementary years. So, that’s why I changed to physical therapy,” she said.
Manantan quickly began to love and enjoy physical therapy. Her interest was further sparked when her mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. After her mother’s diagnosis, she spent time researching how physical therapy could help individuals with Parkinson’s.
In 2001, Manantan became a fully-licensed physical therapist in the Philippines, where she worked for several years.
Q: How did you find yourself at Iredell Memorial Hospital? What is your role there?
A: With the support of her aunt, after practicing physical therapy in the Philippines for 14 years, Manantan received a job offer from Iredell Memorial Hospital.
“I started working as a physical therapist at Iredell in December of 2015,” said Manantan.
Since then, she has primarily worked in the skilled nursing unit.
Manantan enjoys skilled nursing because she gets to spend more time with her patients as therapy there is typically longer-term. The majority of her patients are around 60 to 90 years old and have had a surgery or illness that has affected their mobility.
“I love my patients in skilled nursing, but I fell in love with the staff in that unit too. As a foreigner, I did not have any friends. Skilled nursing became the second home for me. They, the other physical therapists and all rehab staff, accepted me as one of their own, regardless of my race or color. They introduced me to lots of other staff who continue to be so friendly,” said Manantan.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about your job?
A: Manantan enjoys seeing her patients return to their prior level of function and get back to doing the things they’ve missed out on.
“I saw one of my past patients in the grocery store, and she recognized me and said, ‘Thank you for helping me. Look at me now. I am walking without the walker at the grocery store.’ Seeing people doing things they were before they got sick or injured is what is most rewarding to me,” said Manantan.
If you are in need of physical therapy, Iredell Health System offers services in Statesville, Mooresville, and Taylorsville. To contact those offices, call 704-878-4960 for Statesville, 704-360-4690 for Mooresville, or 828-635-3158 or Taylorsville.