Q&A with Massage Therapy Student Kai’imi Killock

As an artist and freelance photographer, Kai’imi Killock works with her intuition – and as she approached her thirties, her intuition was telling her it was time for a change.  One thing was certain: she wanted a career that allowed her to connect with people on a deeper level and become a healing resource. She found that path in Carrington College’s Massage Therapy program on the Portland campus when, just a few weeks in, COVID abruptly closed that door. The hands-on program was paused. Could she wait it out, or had her new career direction dissolved? Her commitment was tested.

What prompted a career change in a completely new direction?

I got sick of sitting at a desk and decided I wanted to go and help people heal. Also, I wanted to be able to give my family financial freedom and send my kids to college to follow their passions. And just taking pictures was not going to cut it.

Did you have any background in this area?

I am a Spartan athlete and do obstacle course racing with my team. I’ve always been passionate about health and used to help my (athletic) teammates recover from injuries suffered during competition.

Why did you choose Carrington College for your Massage Therapy education and training?

I did my research and the school was more accessible than other massage programs that were available. It was Mon-Thrs. for approx. 9-months for a certificate in Massage Therapy. And I could go forward online to get my Health Studies Associate of Science degree in (as few as) 9-months. But COVID closed the program after just 6-weeks. I didn’t know if I could wait it out.

What made you decide to complete your Massage Therapy program when the campus reopened?

I had a health scare in 2022 when I was told I had cervical cancer and that I was dangerously obese. When you’re told you have cancer, your life flashes before your eyes. It turned out to be a misdiagnosis, but that scare made me want to follow through with my desire to help others. I dropped 61-lbs. and kept pushing forward.

Your first impression of the Massage Therapy program?

I did not expect the whole ‘spa’ treatment: exfoliants, aroma wraps, mud rubs. Very luxurious.

What was the best thing about the program?

Teaching us how to help others relax and recover from stresses they face today. We treat muscular injuries and daily tension stresses. And learning to work with greater sensitivity with those with special needs like Aspergers and autism; being kindhearted and loving. And veterans with PTSD; creating a safe place type of feeling. I suffer from PTSD, too, so I understand how some veterans are easily triggered and I have a natural empathy for them.

Did you connect with a specific facet of the program?

Sports Massage was my favorite term. I felt a sense of belonging in that industry; helping athletes heal from their injuries and live their sports lives at their best. It made me certain that this is the best career direction for me. I also like working with the elderly and their range-of-motion.

What was your greatest struggle in the Massage Therapy program?

Trying to remember all the muscles and muscle groups – there are hundreds! The insertion (treatment) origin and action. Studying, prep, remembering pathologies and developing a business plan. Learning to balance classroom and self-study.

Was your family supportive of your education commitment?

It’s my kids that keep me going. They support me and they aspire to follow their own career paths. When I’m at my lowest and want to give up, my loved ones encourage me to keep pushing until I accomplish what I set my mind to. That family includes my teammates and coaches who have supported me through my journey to becoming a LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist).

Did you have the faculty support you needed?

Our instructor (Brittnee Santana) goes out of her way to make us feel loved, cared for and is basically like a mother to all of us. When I was struggling trying to remember muscles and getting ready for the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) she cautioned me not to ‘overthink it’ and reminded me ‘you got this; you can do this!’. She gives that to all her students.

Do you carry that mentorship forward?

I’m a mentor for first-term students (at Carrington) and I do not leave my team behind. As a mentor we focus on helping others achieve their goals. I’m a steppingstone to give them the skills to be successful and develop the skills to meet their needs on their own. I tell them, ‘Never give up. You’re pushing for a better career and life. Overcoming obstacles, you face right now will be worth it in the end.’ I’m also involved in community volunteer work with the American Red Cross, blood donor drives – whoever needs help at that time.

Didn’t you recently use your Red Cross training in an emergency situation?

It was just before Christmas last year and I had been working with our CPR trainer on campus. I was still in my scrubs when a man collapsed as he and his wife came out of a store. I took action. I did a pulse/breathing check with CPR protocols. He was non-responsive. I had someone run and get an AED (automated external defibrillator) while I did CPR – that I’d just learned that day. I didn’t have a mouth piece for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, so I just had to risk it. When the bystander returned with the AED, I administered two rounds of shock. The man started to breathe and became conscious. I waited with them until the paramedics arrived and drove his wife, who had a walker, to the hospital. She told me later that if I hadn’t intervened, she would have spent Christmas planning a funeral instead of wrapping gifts. I was nominated for and received the American Red Cross Lifesaving Award.

Did your education and experience confirm that Massage Therapy a career match for you?

It just feels right. And sports massage is my primary direction. I have a ‘family’ of fellow kickboxers who tell me they need more people like me in that specialty. I have a sense of belonging in that industry. I’ve touched people and have helped them heal from whatever bothers them.

What does your future hold once you complete your Massage Therapy program?

I just got my business license and hope to launch my new career in a few months. I already have a client base to work from. I get to live out my dream of helping others. And, hopefully, my story will inspire others to follow their dreams.

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