When a physical therapist needs therapy

One of the Wilton Family Y’s favorite instructors, Arthur Littleton, has been teaching aquatics exercises for the past six years. This is a program designed by the Arthritis Foundation to strengthen the entire body, restore mobility, and aid flexibility and balance. Some of the longtime devotees of the course say that without it, they couldn’t walk. As soon as there were signs of cold weather arriving, Mr. Littleton emphasized ways to avoid slipping on ice.

Then, on Sept. 26, he fell down his cellar stairs and broke the femur of his right leg. His aquatics students were told, to their dismay, that he’d be away for at least six weeks.

A resident of Wilton for 40 years, Mr. Littleton chose Wilton Meadows Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, where he had visited his mother-in-law and aunt when they were there. He said it was the best decision he could have made. His training, his teaching experience and study of the physiology of the body made him a connoisseur of physical therapy, a patient who could participate in his treatment and contribute ideas for his therapists to use in his physical and occupational therapy sessions.

“What’s great about this place is that the rehab therapists are all part of a team, so each one knows what’s going on with each patient,” he said. “They’ve been very recep receptive to them. There are things I’ve learned from them that you couldn’t learn in a regular class, the ‘tricks of the trade.’”

Mr. Littleton thought when he arrived the emphasis would be on his leg, but his whole body was treated.

“They’re so thorough that I’m going to go home better than before I fell.”

Many of the people in the aquatics class dropped out until he returned.

“I feel very bad about that,” he said. “It’s important that they continue. I know they get more out of the class than the exercise. They really care about each other. Talking is fine as long as they keep moving. Attitude affects healing, and just moving isn’t enough to feel good. You have to believe in what you’re doing. Everyone at Wilton Meadows who’s in rehab is different and needs a different routine. I have to protect my shoulders because that’s my weak point. I was ignoring some problems and what this place has done is show me ways I can tie all the weak spots together. They made me a special walker.”

“The way it happened is embarrassing, since I teach people how to avoid falls. I was rushing to get to the Y because I’d just gotten an extra 15 minutes for the class and I wanted to tell everybody. I was on the stairs to the basement. Normally I grasp the rail on the left, but this time, I turned to the right and there was nothing there. So I fell down five steps and landed on the cement floor.

“I have a lot more injuries than most people because I got into a lot of fights when I was younger. I was raised in Alabama and the kids there were pretty wild at the time. I had lots of surgeries. I could manage pretty well, but when I retired, in 2001, I joined the Y aquatics class. I was in the class four years. Being in the water felt so good I decided to see if I could become an instructor. I did all the training, passed the test and on my 65th birthday, got certified as an instructor.

“Anyone, no matter how old, can continue to learn. When you have a passion for something, you should try to get as much pleasure from it as possible. The best thing is when your work and your fun are close together. That’s what happened to me. It seems that the therapists here feel the same way; they have a passion for their work. The patients all have their different styles, and the therapists do, too. There’s someone here who’s a very jolly type. He has his jokes but he’s also very determined to learn everything he can. He learned recently that there are techniques to help reactivate damaged nerves. He’s going to be working with me on that.”

Mr. Littleton has lived in Wilton 47 years. In the service, he was stationed on Cape Cod, where he met his wife. “We went back to Alabama but I never really fit into Alabama. The pace was just too slow. I didn’t want to be a big duck in a little pond.”

Mr. Littleton worked at Perking Elmer, studied at night, did all kinds of jobs there, and worked his way up to chemical engineering. Then he went into consulting on his own, dealing with the FDA. He then worked for a medical device company in Danbury, going to suppliers and making sure they fulfilled requirements.

He said, “God gave me a kind of invisible cloak that I carry with me. If you do the best you can, you can do still better by sharing what you know.”

Mr. Littleton was a scoutmaster in Wilton for 10 years and district commissioner of the Boy Scouts.

He said he wouldn’t want to change anything that’s happened to him, because “if I changed anything, it wouldn’t be this way now.