Physical Therapy Patient Stories
Read the stories of some of our physical therapy patients. If you have a story to share, please fill out our online form.
For three years, Butler resident Doug, 54, was plagued by knee problems. He tried conservative treatments like anti-inflammatories and steroid injections. He also sought physical therapy from a local provider.
“Both knees just gave me pain,” he shares. “It was disappointing, especially since I retired at 47 and now these issues were holding me back from the things I wanted to be able to do.”
When it was clear that he wasn’t getting any relief, Doug made the decision with his orthopaedic surgeon, Thomas Muzzonigro, MD, that it was time for joint replacement surgery – one knee at a time.
Meet Sr. Cindy
After years of battling arthritis, Sister Cindy, of the Carmelite Community of the Word, Gallitzin, Pa., opted to have a total knee replacement. Per post-surgery protocol, she began physical therapy, with a therapist visiting her at home.
Eventually, Sr. Cindy sought outpatient rehab at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services – Cresson, where she met physical therapist Kim Todaro, physical therapy assistant Corey Millward and office manager, Marci Urban.
Over the past nine years, Carol, 60, has completed one full marathon and ten half marathons, most of which were in Pittsburgh. Participating in the half marathon is a point of pride for her, even though she admits that, rather than running the race, she walks at a fast pace. She enjoys staying active and trains for the annual event by walking several miles a day, three to four days a week.
After a day of snowmobiling in January 2015, Sandy was busily putting her three kids’ snowsuits and goggles away in the garage of her family’s cabin. Her husband, Scott, started up their four wheeler to take their sons for a ride when it suddenly kicked backward and pinned Sandy’s leg against the closet.
Brad’s arthritic shoulder had bothered him for years. The pain became so severe the United Methodist minister couldn’t hold his Bible during services and spent nights sleeping in a recliner. It even hurt when he walked. He finally opted to have a total shoulder replacement, performed by Dean G. Sotereanos, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon, at UPMC Passavant in fall 2016.
Brad’s physical therapy sessions began four weeks after surgery, at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services’ Peters Township location in McMurray.
As she started to develop arthritis, Sue, a 67-year-old Bethel Park resident, began taking regular walks in South Park with her daughter Jessica, an X-ray technician at the UPMC South Hills and UPMC West Mifflin outpatient offices. Sue wanted to ward off the effects of the arthritis, but it still crept in. She needed to have a total right knee replacement in February 2014.
Soon after surgery, Sue began outpatient physical therapy at the South Hills location of UPMC Centers for Rehab Services. There she met her physical therapist Dave, who would see her through four different knee surgery recoveries.
A retired pediatric nurse, Sondra loves staying active doing yard work and gardening. Whenever snow started falling, she didn’t hesitate to grab a shovel to clear the driveway and sidewalk at her Forest Hills home — until she was done in by a heavy, wet snow that fell in late winter 2013.
“I guess I thought I was still 16, but that snow was bad,” says Sondra, now 70. “My shoulder was so sore afterwards that I couldn’t lift my arm above my head.” Unable to lift her young granddaughter, she finally saw a doctor who determined she had a badly torn rotator cuff.
A long distance runner, Carrie spent 8 months running local trails to prepare for the 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon. She continued her training runs even when she developed pain in her hips.
“I put months of hard work and training into the race. I didn’t want it to be for nothing!” says Carrie, 36, of McCandless.
The mother of two young boys, Carrie completed the 26.2-mile marathon despite severe pain in her hips, pelvis, and abdomen. Weeks later, an MRI showed she had FAI (femoral acetabular impingement) and a labral tear in her left hip.
His most significant injury was a torn ligament in his throwing arm which ultimately required Tommy John surgery, a procedure in which a ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.
Despite rapid weight gain and constantly feeling a general sense of being unwell, Allen, now 62, was able to do the time honored tradition of walking his daughter down the aisle in 2012. Allen had played basketball most of his life and enjoyed working out, so he didn’t understand the sudden weight gain. He wanted to be around to enjoy his future grandchildren, so he needed to know the reason behind his symptoms.
An endocrinologist found a tumor on Allen’s pituitary gland and he was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, an illness in which the body produces more estrogen than testosterone, causing weight gain. In May 2013, Allen had the tumor surgically removed at UPMC Presbyterian. By this point, he had gained 80 pounds, was unable to walk, and the disease was causing his bones to deteriorate. A CAT scan revealed that Allen’s hip bones had nearly disintegrated. Total right and left hip replacements were in order.
While walking to mass on a cold Sunday just after Christmas in 2015, Helen, 79, tripped on the curb and landed on her left knee and shoulder. The impact was so intense that she thought she had broken her knee cap. The excruciating pain in her left shoulder spoke for itself and she knew something was wrong.
While crossing the street to get to class one day, Cara, a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh, was struck by a car in the crosswalk. Although she was disoriented at first, she shook it off thinking she was fine. When she stood up, she had severe pain shooting through her foot and ankle. Thankfully her roommate was nearby and was able to help her.
Nine days in the hospital and four surgeries later, Cara had a lot of healing to do after suffering from an ankle fracture and a Lisfranc injury, in which bones in her midfoot were broken.
“All the little things became a major ordeal,” said Cara, who has been a dancer all her life. “Being in a wheelchair and needing a shower, going to classes, getting to the library, or being able to go out with friends was all very challenging.
Meet Karen and Nicole
Karen Jackson and her 14-year-old daughter, Nicole, a former competitive gymnast, enjoy doing many mother-daughter activities together.
Surprisingly, one of these activities includes attending physical therapy sessions at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services’ Moon Township location. What started out as a positive experience for Karen soon became a place of healing for Nicole as well.
Karen began physical therapy with Lauren DeFilippi, MPT, OCS, after being diagnosed with a hip injury, crediting Lauren with getting her back to pain-free living. When Nicole was injured during gymnastics, Karen immediately thought of the care she received at CRS Moon Township.
Connie woke up one morning with a severe pain in her shoulder. She quickly made an appointment with her primary care physician, who ordered an MRI that revealed the issue – a torn rotator cuff.
Connie had friends who had undergone rotator cuff surgery but still didn’t regain full use of their shoulder. She wanted to do anything possible to avoid surgery.
“I learned that physical therapy can help you regain use of your arm without having surgery,” recalled Connie.
“UPMC Centers for Rehab Services’ Penn Hills location is only ten minutes from my house so I was excited to get started on rehab as soon as possible.”
Steve, 60, a retired teacher and avid senior league baseball player, needed both of his knees to be replaced after being a runner for 38 years.
As a lifelong athlete, Steve was eager to get back to his favorite sports as soon as possible, so he started physical therapy at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services’ Eastgate Plaza location in Greensburg following each knee surgery.
Steve did physical therapy with Jamie Dunlap, DPT, after his first knee replacement surgery and was happy to have her help him again.
After retiring as a public school teacher and principal, Terry, now 70, was determined to remain physically active. He loves playing basketball and tending to household chores, including cutting wood for the fireplace.
Unfortunately, Terry’s hips started to bother him over time.
He had to stop playing basketball and sought advice from his primary care physician.
While golfing in 2013, Frank, a 57 year old global energy consultant and father of three, exacerbated a rotator cuff injury. The tear was so severe that he had to have surgery on his right arm. Eight weeks later, he started physical therapy at CRS Murrysville.
Shelby, a senior and longtime softball player at Trinity High School, had been experiencing pain in her elbow for quite some time when she decided to seek physical therapy at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services’ North Strabane location.
She was being treated by Craig Doman, PT, for physical therapy on her dislocated elbow when he discovered another more serious injury.
Craig recommended she see a UPMC Sports Medicine physician to evaluate her elbow. She soon learned that she had a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) and underwent a procedure known as Tommy John surgery by Mark Baratz, MD.
A self-described “baby boomer”, Lewis “Lew” Davis is proud of his active lifestyle. In the spring of 2014, though, he found out his right rotator cuff was partially torn in two places and needed to be repaired.
Not wanting to miss out on a summer of golfing (his favorite pastime), Lew chose to delay surgery until the fall. Unfortunately, the ongoing use of his shoulder led to a complete tear.
Lew had no choice but to undergo surgery, and six weeks later, it was time to begin rehabilitation.
Back to back ACL tears in both knees in 2013 and 2014 eliminated Alec’s chances of playing football in his junior and senior years of high school. But that has not slowed him down, even for a second. With the help of his surgeon, Dr. Freddie Fu, who surgically repaired his torn ACL’s, and his physical therapist, Tony Sanks at the CRS Greensburg location, Alec is on the road to a full recovery.
“I feel very strongly that although I missed out on playing football, having worked with UPMC Centers for Rehab Services for my physical therapy, I am prepared to move on to my next goal in life…a career in the military.”
After multiple knee surgeries, Jeff was looking for the best physical therapy.
As a long-time runner, it was important to Jeff to be able to run without knee pain.
He chose UPMC Centers for Rehab Services at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex so that he had access to same state-of-the art resources and expertise as many of our local sports teams.
In 2010, Vicki fell and injured her shoulder.
Two weeks after surgery, she entered physical therapy at the UPMC Centers for Rehab Services location in Allison Park.
The location (just a few minutes from her home) was always clean and comfortable, and she appreciated how committed the staff was to helping her schedule convenient appointments.
John’s still not quite sure what led to the misalignment of his spine, but he does know one thing: the pain was excruciating.
It started in January 2016 with some “off and on” discomfort in his right hip, then the pain moved to his left hip. He tried “working through it” with some self-prescribed exercises, but by springtime the pain was constant in both hips and lower back.
After suffering a massive stroke the day after Father’s Day 2012, Mac woke up in the ICU to the words, “You’re lucky to be alive.”
Mac’s entire right side was paralyzed from the stroke but he was determined to walk again. After several weeks in the hospital, he began therapy at CRS Chapel Harbor where he re-learned how to pick up small items, place things on a shelf, put items in the refrigerator, and drive a car simulator. He eventually learned how to walk with a cane and use the elliptical and treadmill.
Maria, 58, a mental health therapist, has spent most of her life battling foot problems.
"When I was a young girl, I developed a plantar wart on my left foot that had to be operated on,” recalled Maria. “My foot developed a propensity for weakness following that surgery.”
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Terry, 60, has always put maximum effort into anything he set out to do. A lifelong athlete, Terry plays basketball and tennis, and participates in bodybuilding. He attributes his back problems to overuse since he has always played sports at a high level.
In November 2015, Terry had two coflex devices implanted to keep his spinal column stable after surgical decompression; in lieu of having the vertebrae fused, which can limit movement. Two weeks after surgery, Terry started physical therapy at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services’ Butler - Pullman Square location.
Athletics and unique ways to stay active have always played a large part in Kathy’s life. From roller skating as a child to synchronized swimming as a teenager to modern dance as a young adult, Kathy, 68, now stays active by walking her dog and playing pickleball, a racquet sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis.
When Kathy was still experiencing difficulties years after having ankle surgery, her physician referred her to Scott, a physical therapist with UPMC Centers for Rehab Services. He helped her recover from that injury so that she could get back to a more active lifestyle. The many years of physical exercise wore on Kathy’s hip, so once again, she reached out to Scott for physical therapy at the CRS Butler - Pullman Square location.
Bill’s life was turned upside down when he received the news that he was going to have his right leg amputated above the knee. The 65-year-old avid hunter and fisherman had suffered from compartment syndrome due to a blood clot that prevented blood flow to his leg.
Following discharge from the hospital, Bill was unable to walk without assistance and realized he’d have to reinvent himself if he was going to get back to working in his wood shop and doing other activities that he enjoys.