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Sandy — Physical Therapy Patient Story

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.

Scott and Zachary, Sandy’s oldest son, rushed over to lift up the four wheeler and free Sandy. Sandy’s daughter, Allison, called 911 as her youngest son, Benjamin, rushed over to comfort her while they waited for the first responders to arrive.

Sandy, a 27-year employee of UPMC, was rushed to a nearby hospital where she was stabilized. She asked to be taken to UPMC Presbyterian for further treatment. At this point, she had gone six hours without blood flow to her lower left leg.

Over the course of three weeks, Sandy underwent six surgeries in an attempt to save her leg. Due to severe muscle and tissue damage, it would never be functional and she’d never be able to walk again. Sandy made the decision to have it amputated, so that she could gain mobility and independence once again.

“Once I made that decision, there was no looking back,” remembers Sandy. “I had the best care and I would make the same choice today.”

Sandy also met with Michael Munin, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist with UPMC. “He came to see me right after my amputation and told me what the road to recovery would be like,” says Sandy. “He’s very in tune with me and my recovery process. Ten months down the road I began to experience anxiety and depression. Dr. Munin assured me that I’d be okay and that I could see a therapist. It felt good to know I wasn’t alone and it was normal to feel the way I did.”

While seeing a psychiatrist to help with her PTSD following the accident, Sandy also participated in outpatient physical therapy at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services’ South Side location at 2000 Mary Street. Her physical therapist, Lisa, made her do practical things like learning how to get up from a fall, how to get up from a seated position without using her arms, walk on a downward slope, and practice walking over a curb while also holding a glass of water.

“Lisa is tiny and I’m nearly six feet tall,” says Sandy. “I told her, ‘If I fall, I’m going to crush you!’ She’s small but mighty, in stature and in temperament.

“You can never say ‘I can’t’ to her. She’ll challenge you to do it anyway. She’s kind but firm and she knows how to motivate you.”

Sandy has been doing physical therapy at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services for more than a year. She credits Lisa with enabling her to return to work, which was an important goal for her. Sandy sees her coworkers as her extended family due to all of their support. She is now able to walk with only a cane and hopes to learn how to run on her prosthetic in the future. Until then, she enjoys mentoring other amputees.