Carol Motyka-Miller is the one on the left facing you, the other half of an accomplished synchronized swimming duo. Together with her friend, Beth Carey, Ms. Motyka-Miller has garnered her share of swimming awards and medals. A physical therapist in the Northern New Jersey school system, Carol had faced family health adversities when her husband, Richard, former President of the New Jersey Pharmacy Association, battled Parkinson’s Disease for over a decade before succumbing in 2012.
Carol and Beth were both diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. Carol came to us to help with visual problems she was having, and as a competitive, determined therapist she was up for tackling her visual issues head-on. During her vision therapy program, Beth accompanied Carol for each visit. As recently as June, Carol and Beth were still racking up synchronized medals, and Carol was feeling stronger than ever.
Then, in a cruel twist of fate, Carol developed a clot in her leg early last month. It was due to a metastasis of her pancreatic cancer, and aggressive chemotherapy wore her out rapidly so that she was unable to come for therapy visits. Jen Costello, one of our very caring vision therapists who had bonded with Carol, stayed in touch with her family. Yesterday afternoon, Carol’s children came to our office to tell us that Carol had passed away. They brought in her life’s collection of glasses to donate to the Lions Foundation, and to thank us for our caring. Her daughter commented that we couldn’t imagine how much we had done for Carol in making this year a more comfortable one for her. We always say that vision has head to toe implications, and preserving her visual abilities right to the end had let Carol maintain her love of life and independence. Jen and I were both teary-eyed as we told Carol’s children that she had inspired our staff far more than she could ever know. Her determination to not only succeed but excel, and the bond that she and Beth shared left an enduring mark on everyone whose lives they touched.
At our staff meeting this morning I shared the news, as not everyone was aware of Carol’s passing. There was a moment of silence not because I called for one; it was spontaneous. We’ve all had patients like Carol, and they move us in ways for which we can never fully thank them.