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Helen​ — Physical Therapy Patient Stor​y

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.

Fast forward three days to December 30 and Helen was in surgery for a reverse shoulder replacement at UPMC Passavant. Her knee would heal on its own but a large metal plate had to be placed in her arm. Helen’s daughter, Helena, a vestibular therapist at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services, recommended that her mom participate in physical therapy at CRS Wexford. Helena works with the physical therapists in that office so she knew her mom would be in good hands.

“Lon and Danielle were my therapists at CRS Wexford and they did a wonderful job,” says Helen. “I was terrified that I’d never regain full use of my arm but with their help and expertise, I was on my journey of wellness and my path to independence.”

While at CRS Wexford, Helen did exercises to work on her range of motion so that she could do things on her own again, such as getting dressed and brushing her teeth. These exercises included:

  • Wall crawls with her hand
  • Using a hand-operated exercise bike
  • Stretching using exercise bands
  • Sitting in a chair and using her arms to raise a pulley

To ensure a full recovery, Helen was diligent about doing some of these exercises at home as well. While participating in physical therapy, Helen still had weight restrictions for certain household tasks. She wasn’t allowed to lift a gallon of milk, she wasn’t able to use the vacuum cleaner for some time, and her daughter had to drive her around.

“This accident was devastating. It was a very overwhelming experience to go from being healthy to totally incapacitated,” says Helen. “But the temperament of my therapists was great and they took the anxiety away. They communicated their approach to care so I’d understand why they were having me do certain things. It’s a process to heal and it doesn’t just happen overnight, but they help you get through it and I should be completely recovered by this coming Christmas, one year later.”

As a grandmother and chauffeur to two school-aged children, Helen was happy to finally be able to drive again so that she can help take her grandchildren to soccer, baseball, and basketball practice. She is now back to volunteering at various parishes and is able to attend daily mass.

“Would you believe – five other people were admitted to the hospital the same week as me from falling or tripping on their way into church,” remarks Helen. “I’m going to be extra careful this winter season. But it’s comforting to know that great care awaits me at CRS Wexford, should I have another accident.

Read more about the physical therapy program at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services.