This week, we are pleased to introduce you to Jeff Mason, DPT, physical therapist. Jeff has worked at Children’s for nearly four years now and still tells people he landed his dream job on the first try. Learn more about Jeff and how he uses play to help children with cancer stay active.
What is your role at Children’s? I am a physical therapist, working primarily with children who have been diagnosed with cancer, and their famillies, to make sure that they can keep active and keep playing, at home and in the hospital.
What is a typical day like for you? I split my time between the Cancer and Blood Disorders clinic and the hospital, working with kids and their families toward the goal of physical activity, which I like to call play. We work against the disease process, as well as the side effects of chemotherapy, which can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, balance problems and sensation changes, like numbing or tingling (buzzing, as some kids have described it), that can really get in the way of playing. I spend my day crawling on the floor, making ramps for Matchbox cars out of mats or books and tissue boxes, dancing or marching in a parade (shout-out to Music Therapy!), riding bikes or scooters, and making a lot of animal noises. I was known for my elephant for a while in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) – it’s tough to keep that one at a reasonable volume.
Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s? One of my favorite memories was going for a bike ride through the tunnel in the basement with a patient who was on her 96th day in the hospital and had just learned that she was going to be here longer. She really wanted to bike, so we walked the bike to the elevators, where she taught me how to play the elevator guessing game (which elevator is it going to be? She won every time). Then, she took off through the tunnels, with me tailing her with her IV pole, the balloons tied to the top smacking me in the face with every stride, her giggles filling the tunnel with pure joy. Those tunnels could have gone on forever; I don’t think either of us would have stopped.
What do you love most about your job? See above I think the challenge of walking into a situation where there isn’t much motivation to play, during a most difficult time in someone’s life, and figuring out what gets him/her excited, or what will make him/her smile, and figuring out a way to make that the focus. I love working with kids and their families to help them take control of some aspects of the journey when there are so many things that are/seem out of their control. I also enjoy the incredible team that makes up Children’s, including my brother, a nurse in the PICU!
How do you spend your time outside of work? I have 7- and 8-year-old boys at home, so, obviously, we have lots of dance parties. We read delightful children’s books, we bike, we play a game called “Jody Monster” at the park (I am Jody Monster; it makes some kids nervous, because I take my roles seriously, not breaking character). We also enjoy kayaking, fishing, and the Northwoods at my partner Annie’s family cabin near Ely. I recently took up tinkering, turning a toddler bed into a reading chair, and I make a mean radiator cover/bookshelf.