The Therapist Was a Cissy
By Jack Williams
Don’t be misled by the title. For 16 months, I’ve been worked on, worked over, and worked to the edge of exhaustion by the best, the most beautiful…the toughest therapist in Tennessee. Let’s be clear—the therapist was certainly a Cissy, but definitely not a Sissy. That’s her name—Cissy Voight.
She’s a Mississippi native from a wonderful Christian home. Her parents were community leaders and active in their local church, making sure Cissy and her two sisters understood what it means to love Jesus and serve the Lord. Cissy grew up in the small town of Ackerman, then relocated to Jackson and enrolled at the University of Mississippi Medial Center where she received a B.S. in Physical Therapy in 1979. She received an M.S. in Physical Therapy from the University of Tennessee in 2002.
A physical therapist since 1979, Cissy is now employed in an outpatient setting at the Green Hills office of STAR Physical Therapy in Nashville, Tennessee, specializing in individuals with balance, gait, and vestibular disorders. I met her in 2013 after experiencing a near-fatal stroke in November 2012. I had spent 39 days in the hospital and had just transitioned from wheel chair to quad cane for mobility. Cissy Voight’s million-volt smile changed my world in an instant, like a rainbow after a dark and stormy night.
For 16 months, I met Cissy twice each week for hour-long sessions. Most sessions were scheduled for noon. I dreaded the opening pulley activities, because they made my uncooperative left arm want to scream as it was forced above my head and stretched. One day, as I exited the building, a lady stepped from the elevator and cheerily said, “I see you survived the torture chamber again!” It had been a long uncomfortable hour, and Cissy had me sweating like a horse.
For the most part, I endured the discomfort without squealing like a girl and embarrassing myself or scaring Cissy. Cissy’s exercises with my left hand made me grunt now and then, but they improved its mobility. What was the most difficult part of the therapy? The struggle not to fall in love with Cissy. After all, she welcomed me every time with that killer smile and those flashing eyes. Her perfect black hair fell below her shoulders and was always clean, fresh, and shiny.
A few weeks into therapy, Cissy suggested that I change from a quad cane to a regular walking cane. I did, and now, I can walk some without a cane.
The Sweet Side
One day, as I drove past a Krispy Kreme doughnut outlet on the way to therapy, I picked up a box of doughnuts for Cissy and the staff and left them with Mariclare, the receptionist. Next time I showed up for therapy, Cissy greeted me with, “So you’re the one who’s trying to get me off my diet and gain weight.”
“No ma’am,” I replied, “Just wanted to make sure you stay sweet on these long, hard days.” I’ve continued the occasional doughnut deliveries. It seems to work.
Surprises and Disagreements
I was surprised to learn the theological mantra of therapy. It sounded almost biblical. Early on, while I tried to walk up steps, I’d hear, “The good goes up; the bad goes down,” which meant lead with the strong foot and put less stress on the weak side.
But no matter how sweet Cissy was, we disagreed during football season. She is a faithful Ole Miss fan, while I am a lifelong LSU Tiger. But even though she pulled against LSU when the Rebels invaded Baton Rouge, I kept the doughnuts coming.
My biggest surprise came the day I arrived for therapy and found Santa Claus, long white beard and all, waiting for therapy. No reindeer, however. Cissy told me his real name and assured me that he really was Santa and filled the role each Christmas season in local retail outlets.
Six weeks before my therapy sessions concluded, Cissy introduced me to Chelsea, a doctoral student at Belmont University, where Cissy’s husband, Michael, is a full-time faculty member. Cissy was mentoring Chelsea. The two of them were conversing, and I overheard Cissy say, “Oh, he will be graduating next Friday.” Then, she turned to me and said, “You will graduate, but there will be no cap, gown, or hood…and no diploma. We will give you a STAR Therapy T-shirt to wear.”
And that’s what happened on June 20, 2014. I graduated from therapy with a new T-shirt and a beautiful friend—Mrs. Cissy Voight. By this time next year, Mentee Chelsea from Cincinnati will be Dr. Chelsea, and I hope to see her graduate in turn.
I have returned to STAR therapy several times with doughnuts since my June 20 graduation to make sure that Marine Corps-tough Therapist Cissy Voight keeps her smile and stays sweet on hard days.
About the Writer: Jack Williams was editor of Contact magazine for 27 years
and recently retired from his role as director of communications at Welch College, which he had held since 2005.