Pickleball Magazine 3-1 - Page 20

I first discovered pickleball on a whim in the summer of 2011. I was working as a Pulmonary and Critical Care physician in Bend, Oregon, at that time. I remember reading an article in the local paper about a retired couple, Irene and AJ Fraties, who were hoping to introduce the game of pickleball to Central Oregon. They put out an open invitation for anyone interested to show up several times a week at tennis courts that were essentially unused in the community. I remember the scene well. It was sort of a flash mob comprised of about a dozen or so retirees and some of us younger folks with tennis, squash and racquetball backgrounds. We set up portable nets and put down masking tape lines to make temporary courts on which we would play. I found a certain appeal to this quirky little game. I didn’t take it seriously. How could I, with its absurd name and high- pitched plinking sounds from every shot. Irene and AJ, along with others who had wintered down around Casa Grande and Phoenix, assured me that it was a highly competitive game in the Southwest with tournaments galore every weekend. They insisted it was the fastest growing sport in America. To me, it was just fun. Little did I know it would become so much more for me in the years to follow. I started playing regularly and gradually got pretty good at the game. Then I had a patient come in to see me in my pulmonary clinic. She said, “I met you playing pickleball a few weeks back and found out you were a lung doctor. I wanted you to be my doctor.” 18 WHY I PLAY Dr. Kelley found a certain appeal to this quirky little game. Little did he know it would become so much more for him. By Dr. Chris Then I had another person show up in the clinic with a similar story. Then another, and another and so on. Before I knew it, I had about 25 patients who were seeing me simply because they had met me on the courts and wanted a lung doctor who could help them with their breathing while playing. This got me thinking a lot about what I do as a doctor and how I can affect patients’ lives in a positive way. One thing I’ve learned in my nearly TO SUBSCRIBE CALL 888.308.3720 OR GO TO THEPICKLEBALLMAG.COM 20 years of practicing medicine is that there is no single pill that will help people remain young. What works the best is to never stop moving. I treat hundreds of men and women who are or were smokers. I treat many others with asthma, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis and sometimes lung cancer. Many of my patients are seriously hampered by their conditions. Regardless of my recommendations to remain active and exercise regularly, many of my patients retreat to their homes, sit down, turn on the TV and stop moving. Here I was with a population of retirees who were active and wanted to stay active by playing pickleball. One of my patients was so inspired to play that he did so—and continues to do so—while wearing his portable oxygen concentrator! I realized that by playing pickleball regularly in the community of Bend, I could inspire my patients to take charge of their lives, remain active into their advanced years, socialize, have fun, and stay as young of mind and body as possible. This may be some of the best medicine I’ve ever offered. This is why I play. • T.C. Kelley (aka Dr. Chris) is a Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician at Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska. He is a USAPA Ambassador for Alaska and is committed to growing the game in the nation’s largest state. He lives with his wife and five cats in Anchorage. Tell Us Why You Play Email your story to editors@pickleballmagazine.com.