Today, I’m delighted share the inspiring testimony of Mertha Wertz, who told me how God worked out the details for her to become a Physical Therapist Assistant.
I met Mertha in 2004 at church in the adult Sunday school class, but where I really got to know her was in a ladies’ group called, “Read through the Bible in a Year.” During 2006, seven of us met once a week (on Mondays as I remember) to talk about verses in our reading that caught our attention.
A Seattleite, Mertha grew up in a house only four blocks from Roosevelt High School, where she graduated seventy years ago. At a Billy Graham Crusade, the first ever in Seattle, she accepted Christ as her Savior.
Her first jobs were babysitting, setting pins in a bowling alley, and bagging groceries as the very first “box girl” at Tradewell Stores. She’s thankful her mother taught her rules to live by, such as “avoid the appearance of evil,” and “don’t make a promise you can’t keep.”
Mertha got married in 1950 and had a son. Now her family has expanded to include a daughter-in-law, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Hard times hit Mertha when her husband had a midlife crisis in his late forties and left her. They’d been married twenty-five years. She searched for work and got a job as an underwriter for Sayre and Toso Insurance, Inc. At the Friends Church in Seattle, she learned about spiritual gifts in a Bible study in which everyone said she had the gift of helps. Their confirmation prompted her to look into the field of healthcare.
In 1977, Mertha applied to the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program at Green River College. But the program was full for that fall.
Shortly before the start of the course, however, she got word that she was accepted and awarded a scholarship for $300. But she had no car for the commute between Seattle and Auburn. Lo and behold, she found a 1946 Pinto wagon, including a year’s insurance, for $1500 – all the money she had. Wasn’t God good?
She decided to quit her underwriter job because of the long commute, but her boss talked her into working part-time, which was unusual in those days. God provided a good-paying summer job where she didn’t have much to do and felt she got paid for “arranging files.”
At forty-eight years old, Mertha was the oldest student at the start of the PTA course. She enjoyed the training, but after studying for two years, still lacked five credits. Did she give up? Of course not! She took a night class in psychology at North Seattle Community College. The professor, who must have had a sense of humor, said anyone who came to class in pajamas would get extra credit, so Mertha did and got an A.
She graduated from the PTA course with an Associate of Science degree. “God’s hand,” says Mertha, “was evident in the way everything fell into place.”
A Career of Helping People
After graduation, Mertha applied for a job at the University of Washington Hospital, but they kept putting her off and did not hire her. In hindsight, she thinks the reason was gender discrimination.
Her first job was with the First Hill Care Center, where she worked for ten years. Subsequently, her career as a PTA included positions at Cabrini Hospital near Lake Union, Northwest Hospital, Parkinson’s Center in Kirkland, and the Franciscan Healthcare Center in Bothell.
She found PTA work fulfilling because she got to help people grow stronger. While the work could be exhausting at times, her motto became, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Patients claimed Mertha had “magic hands” and requested her for their physical therapy sessions. At least one person wouldn’t accept an appointment for a massage with anyone else.
Another client who stands out in her mind was a woman who longed to go home. Before she could be discharged, she had to be able to get from her bed to the wheelchair – all by herself. Mertha taught her how and worked with her day after day. “The lady practiced the maneuver,” says Mertha, “hundreds of times!” At last she mastered it and happily went home.
When Mertha retired from her career as a PTA, she became a caregiver to clients who needed help with light housekeeping, meal preparation, and running errands.
True to her Physical Therapy background, Mertha practices what she teaches.
Shortly after I met her, we were standing around in the church foyer, and I asked her what she liked to do during the week. She told me she went to the gym, where she worked with a personal trainer, and she invited me to check it out. So I did. And that’s how I got started going to the gym. Sometimes when I’m too tired or find other excuses not to go, I say to myself, “If Mertha can do it, so can I.” She’s a wonderful role model and friend.
For relaxation, Mertha enjoys quilting in church groups, Wii Bowling at the senior center, and playing Upwords, a table game.
Thank you very much, Mertha, for sharing your testimony with us. And Happy Birthday!
Posted on October 18, 2016