Michael Kuegler – He has the right touch!

By Bob Tagert

Michael Kuegler – He has the right touch!

For over 33 years we have written personality profiles about people we have met, read about or heard about. This is the first time I have gone into a situation that I was fearing and I had already tagged the person who was going to help me recover from knee surgery as the “deliverer of pain”.

On March 16th, I had my much anticipated knee replacement and was ready for all of the rehab that was necessary. That was before I talked with my friend in Colorado who had the procedure a month before mine. From him, and all those who had been on this path before, I was in for incredible pain as the flexibility was restored to my knee. “No pain, no gain,” said one. “They are gonna kick your ass,” another explained. “It is going from 90 degrees to 120 degrees that it really hurts,” chimed in another. (I am currently at 90 degrees).

As I was doing my rehab and staying at a friend’s house in Calvert County Maryland I chose Bayside Physical Therapy in Prince Frederick to get me back to walking again. On my surgeon’s recommendation, I chose this facility because I was told that she thought that the therapist was a former rugby player like myself. If you are going to be dealing with pain, choose a level playing field. On my first appointment I met Michael Kuegler, my physical therapist. Standing about six foot four and weighing about 245 fit pounds I asked him if he played second row (a rugby position). He replied, “No, I played lacrosse.” There went my sympathy card. I knew nothing about lacrosse and he knew nothing about rugby.

Though we don’t have rugby in common, I don’t think that I have ever met someone who is so easy to talk to as Michael Kuegler. His facility was covered with University of Maryland paraphernalia and I am a Maryland boy so our conversations usually center around the University. The conversations are light and easy flowing while commanding my attention as he bends my knee a little more with each sentence.

Kuegler is a true Maryland guy. He grew up in Howard County in the town of Columbia. Growing up with two brothers and one sister, he was always in competition and leaned toward the athletic side of life. During our one hour sessions we talk about Maryland sports. As he says, being in my early, early 60’s, he was around when the University of Maryland was flying high in the ACC. Basketball was strong as was Maryland football. Back in those days lacrosse was a minor sport but Maryland was always ranked somewhere in the top ten (today they are ranked number one in the country).

Growing up, Mike spent several weeks every summer at his Aunt and Uncles home on the lower Eastern Shore. He would spend his days crabbing, fishing and exploring the marsh in a ten -foot rowboat. Looked like the beginnings of a life as a waterman. “Until you smell the salt water, see the sunrise and set, you can’t explain the beauty of the shore!” he says.

As Mike got older he became fascinated with weight training. His heroes were Arnold Schwarzenegger (Mr. Universe at age 20) and Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk). Mike began a seven-day-a-week workout routine but never quite achieved their degree of success, however, his fitness is inspiring and this dedication is understood by his patients.

Mike’s first degree at Maryland was in Special Education and was his first introduction into physical therapy including wheelchair positioning, assistive devices for movement and postural training. He also worked in a Children’s Group Home every weekend during his last two years of school. “We worked on positioning for feeding, wheelchair mobility and transfers,” he related.

Mike went back to Maryland to get his Graduate Degree in Physical Therapy. “Working in special education and the group home I witnessed the physical barriers that children and adults experience every day,” he tells me. “You could see how they modified positions, used their dominate side and learned how to adapt with their disability,” he continued.

Over the years Mike has practiced in Baltimore, Colorado, Annapolis and for the past 31 years has been in Southern Maryland.

I talked about Mike’s mannerisms and his rapport with his patients. “For 37 years I have learned many things about human nature,” he explains, “Humans, both young and old (wish he hadn’t said that) experience boundaries every day. My job is to teach people how to move through or around those boundaries to reach their goals. People don’t realize what they are physically capable of achieving and they need verbal motivation and direction to achieve their goals. People also benefit from simple human kindness. Many people are widowed, live alone or don’t possess the skills to communicate with others. I have found that a simple ‘Good Morning or Afternoon’ or ‘How are you feeling today?’ is very motivating. A simple touch or fist pump encourages people to work harder.”

It appears that my friends were right…no pain, no gain! The support of Mike and his whole staff does, however, make that pain a little more bearable.

He ended our interview with, “I appreciate the aches and pains and progressive loss of mobility. The loss of tissue elasticity and the desire to move creates pain. Educating people in joint protection, balance reactions and realistic daily activity still motivates me to treat people!” Good thing…I have an appointment tomorrow morning.

Mike resides in Dunkirk, Maryland with Catherine, his wife of 31 years, who is also a Physical Therapist. They have three grown children two of which are active military in the Air Force and one who is an Occupational Therapist.

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