Physical Therapy and One Very Special 8-Year Old Patient

Every profession has high-lights and low-lights, Physical Therapy is no different and often, the two extremes get blended together in many cases. I’ve asked one of our Physical Therapists, Aurora D. Smith, to tell you about one of those patients who makes us love what we do each day. Here is her story:

As a Physical Therapist, I see many patients that inspire me to continue to learn more about my profession and myself as an individual. I have treated a variety of medical diagnoses over the span of more than 10 years in this field. Recently, I have had the pleasure of getting to know an amazing young girl that has a beautiful spirit. She makes me think of butterflies… Her name is Paulina and she has gracefully dealt with issues that would be difficult for a “well adjusted” adult to handle well. Paulina is 8 years old.

On October 10, 2012, Paulina was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It took approximately one year from the time that her optometrist recommended an MRI because the doctor felt that there was an issue of vein diameter during a routine examination. They were smaller than normal. So it began… for Paulina, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother in tow (she is at every physical therapy appointment). Eventually it was confirmed. She had a tumor approximately the size of a golf ball sitting on the pituitary gland. By the end of October, she had a port and then underwent chemotherapy in November.

Rosa, Paulina’s mother, states that they are a close knit family and the entire extended group was brought together in this time of need on the eve that her parents received this life changing diagnosis. Her mother was understandably feeling “helpless” without a clue of what to do next. “I wanted to take it away from her,” she states when asked about her feelings that day. It has been a strain on the family unit in many ways, but her mother says, “we just kept God first and Paulina always had a good attitude and rarely complained.” I know that to be true – when we have sessions together, she will ask in a chipper voice: “what’s next!? How many?” and that alone puts a smile on my face. She truly is a treasure!

At present time, Paulina’s cancer is in remission. While there is uncertainty, this family and this very special little girl have decided to live life to the fullest. But who of us does not live uncertain of what the future holds? When I see her smile, it makes a lot of sense to me that we embrace the moments that we have and all of the golden nuggets along the way. She is an example of what makes my profession incredibly worthwhile.

Aurora D. Smith, PT, MS
Physical Therapist


I am Aurora D. Smith, PT, MS originally from Columbia, SC. I am a graduate of Wake Forest University with a bachelor’s degree in Health and Exercise Science. At Wake Forest University, I had the opportunity to continue my dance studies while pursuing academic interests, and was subsequently was offered the opportunity to dance professionally with the Charleston Ballet Theatre upon graduation. I enjoyed a brief yet fulfilling career as a professional ballet dancer for 2 years prior to attending the Medical University of South Carolina to pursue a career in Physical Therapy.

Having a love of science and movement, it was the perfect fit for me! I graduated in 2002 with a Master’s in Rehabilitation Science and began my career working in an outpatient clinic located in Sumter. SC. Since that time, I have worked in a variety of settings and have extensive experience with ergonomics, work hardening, work conditioning and performing functional capacity evaluations. I have furthered my education with several manual therapy courses through the University of St. Augustine. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, visiting museums and travel to interesting and exotic places!