Rhett WheelerRhett Wheeler, PT, DPT, can’t stop smiling when he talks about the new expansion facility at Children’s of Alabama. He even helped plan for the new space and equipment.

“We are all like kids in a candy store or at Christmas as we are now able to utilize this awesome new facility that we have been watching go from the ground up for the last several years,” said Wheeler, a graduate of the UAB Physical Therapy program in 1999.

The new gym has a view of Vulcan Park & Museum, additional treatment rooms allow equipment and space to be more accessible for their patients and staff, and it all comes with new equipment. As an inpatient physical therapy coordinator, Wheeler primarily works with children who have a newly acquired diagnosis such as a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, transverse myelitis, Guillian Barre Syndrome, Multiple Scleorsis, arterio-venous malformation, and/or acute/chronic pain disorders.  He works most closely with the inpatient rehabilitation team.  He’s also the primary PT in their seating and positioning clinic.

“I assess for and/or modify seating systems such as wheelchairs and bath equipment,” said Wheeler.

 Working with pediatrics seems natural to him whether it was coaching youth or babysitting.

“I babysat four kids almost every weekend and was involved with a special kid’s night program at my church throughout PT school,” said Wheeler.

He even took that love of children abroad on trips with his church to Peru and Guatemala. In 2003, he led a trip to an orphanage in Guatemala that was home to 500 children.

“I had the opportunity to train caregivers to position and stimulate infants with special needs in their nursery as well as teach house parents to care for older children with special needs,” said Wheeler. “I was able to fabricate splints and adapt equipment for longer term use.”

He has participated in three medical/building trips to Peru where he was part builder, interpreter and therapist.

“I have had opportunity to work with patients who sustained trauma, burns or who had back pain from working in the fields,” said Wheeler.

He tells future PT graduates he’s fortunate now to be working both in a career and at an employer he loves.

“Don’t ever forget why you chose this career path and use that to fuel you in the challenging days and times,” said Wheeler.  “You are about to enter a world full of potential, opportunities, growth, continuous learning, relationships, service, and the list goes on. Don’t grow stagnant!  Keep challenging yourself and others to improve for your own personal and professional growth and for the well being to future clientele.”