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Welcome to Holland

by Thad Mackiewicz, Jr. PT, MS, D, CSCS

In working with people having chronic pain for more than three years of my 15 year career as a physical therapist, I have come to realize that this is a very challenging group.  I don’t have chronic back pain, but I have had severe muscle pain in the past.  I don’t have my life interrupted every day by muscle spasm or limited movement, but it has been a problem at times.  It is still easy for me to relate to this group of people with chronic pain because of my family at home.  Two of my three children have Fragile X syndrome, which is a genetic chromosomal disorder.  Aged 10 and 7 they have this condition which is on the autism spectrum and will affect them for the rest of their lives and mine as well. One will be dependent for life and the other… well, we’ll have to wait and see as the years pass. This change in my family was not anticipated, expected, or even welcome.  It is not going to go away, it is not going to change, so one must make the most of it.  The following story is a good explanation of what it is like to have unexpected permanent changes in one’s life and how to relate to it…


by Emily Perl Kingsley.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.”

When given special circumstances, medical conditions, or different situations than expected, one must have faith that God has a master plan and that it is all for a good reason.  We might not ever know the logic behind it all, but “when given lemons we must make lemonade”.  You might not ever know it, but you are an example of perseverance, consistency, resilience, fortitude, courage, and strength to those watching you go through the difficult circumstances.  It may be Holland instead of Italy, and it is tough to learn new things and new ways to do things, but it is all worth it.  Each day we need to take another small step in a new direction and honor what is ahead of us not dwell on what is behind us.  There will be good days and bad, celebration and frustration, but in taking each day as small moments in time, we can learn to see the windmills and tulips.

Author Info



Founded in 1998, Pain Consultants of East Tennessee is a multi-disciplinary pain management practice who has been designed a Center of Excellence by the American Pain Society.