Patient Stories

Learn how physical therapy at Essentia Health changed the lives of some of our patients.

Autumn's Story

Autumn Paulus shares how her care team at Essentia Health adapted their treatment to get her back to ice skating after suffering a concussion.

Like Nowhere Else: Autumn – Essentia Health Video Transcript

(DESCRIPTION)
A teenage girl with dark hair and glasses laces up a pair of white ice skates in an indoor ice rink. She wears a black high collared jacket, black pants, and mismatched gloves.

(SPEECH)
AUTUMN: My name is Autumn Paulus, and I'm 13 years old, and I'm a figure skater.

(DESCRIPTION)
The girl spins several times on the ice, first with her right leg out in front, then twisted over her left ankle. , then skates backwards, her right arm outstretched in front of her.

(SPEECH)
Whenever I'm on the ice, I feel like it's my one place I can go, and I can escape from everything else and just be me and the ice. On June 10, I was in a class for figure skating, and then I ended up tripping.

(DESCRIPTION)
She stumbles and falls coming out of a jump

(SPEECH)
SPEAKER: It didn't look that spectacular. She just tripped. But she hit her head on the ice.

(DESCRIPTION)
Photo of a short cut over Autumn's left eyebrow, thin line of blood trailing down the side of her face.

(SPEECH)
We honestly thought it was just going to be some stitches. And we brought her in. She had her stitches, and ended up having memory loss, and slowly her balance started going.

(DESCRIPTION)
Photos of Autumn's head wounds. Sign, Essentia Health Duluth Clinic, 3rd Street Building

(SPEECH)
For her care at Essentia, she started out with Dr. Canoff and pediatric neurology. They were absolutely stellar. They were the ones that actually coordinated a whole community of care for her.

(DESCRIPTION)
Autumn stands on a round platform atop half a round ball. A man holds her hand as she wobbles, trying to gain her balance.

(SPEECH)
The balance clinic is very specialized. It was certainly amazing to have that opportunity to have her in it, especially as a figure skater.

(DESCRIPTION)
Autumn buckles a harness that is strapped over her shoulders and waist.

(SPEECH)
MIKE: My name's Mike Ryder. I was Autumn's physical therapist. Working with Autumn was certainly a fun challenge. The early on treatment was more about developing some basic balance skills.

(DESCRIPTION)
The man twirls in front of Autumn

(SPEECH)
Learning from Autumn about what she needed to do as a figure skater and the types of things she did as a figure skater, we were able to work together to come up with a plan and a progression to help her regain those abilities. SPEAKER: I think what surprised me with her care at Essentia was the level of commitment that the care team had for her and for her goal and the extra steps that were taken.

(DESCRIPTION)
Autumn's feet on a moving platform

(SPEECH)
AUTUMN: When I first stepped on the ice, I got this feeling that I could never forget. It

(DESCRIPTION)
Autumn spins on ice.

(SPEECH)
was like me making peace with the ice again. I almost broke down into tears because I was so happy to get back on the ice. For me to fully heal, I need to get back to skating. Because that's one way I can only heal. Because the ice didn't break me. I'm too strong enough for it to break me.

(DESCRIPTION)
With one knee bent and the other behind her, Autumn glides across the ice in a red flowing skating dress with gold accents, her hair swept high atop her head.

(SPEECH)
My dreams are worth fighting for, because some dreams are bigger than an injury. And Essentia Health helps get you back on that path to that dream, like nowhere else.

(DESCRIPTION)
She spins, arms above her head. Across the rink, Autumn skates backward. A white Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Autumn speeds by.

Emily's Story

Emily Roberts shares her story of recovery after a fall on the ice left her with a broken ankle.

Like Nowhere Else: Emily's Story - Essentia Health Video Transcript

(SPEECH)
[HEAVY FOOTFALLS]

[MUSIC PLAYING]

(DESCRIPTION)
A woman walks through the snow.

(SPEECH)
EMILY ROBERTS: My name is Emily Roberts. I'm a lactation coordinator at Essentia Health St. Mary's Detroit Lakes. I love being active in the winter. It's peaceful. It just brings you a lot of joy when you're outside and in this cold weather.

(DESCRIPTION)
Emily Roberts walks through a wooded area. There is snow on the ground and on the boughs of a pine tree. She walks up a hill and through the snow in a pink coat, black snow pants, a woolen hat, fur trimmed boots, and blue snowshoes.

(SPEECH)
Three years ago, I slipped and fell on the ice walking into church, and I broke my ankle in three places. I instantly thought of, how am I going to do this? I'm not going to be able to walk because of the injury. I knew right away that it was going to be very difficult to take care of my 2-year-old, my family. I knew that I had a long road ahead of me. Due to the type of break it was, I had to have surgery. And it required some ligament repair, which kept me off my feet for 14 weeks.

(DESCRIPTION)
Emily speaks in a hallway at Essentia. A therapist wearing a white shirt holds Emily's ankle in both hands as she sits on an examination table. He looks at Emily as she speaks. A picture of Emily's family shows Emily, her husband, in swimming clothes and her two sons wearing life jackets. Her two sons kiss her cheeks. Emily points to her ankle and ligaments. The therapist holds her leg still and examines her ankle.

(SPEECH)
What really motivated me to recover was I knew that I would get to start therapy, that that would be the road to getting back to doing the things that I love to do, number one being waterskiing in the summertime, and snow skiing in the wintertime.

(DESCRIPTION)
Emily stands on a square wooden plank and rocks forward and backward exercising her ankle. She lays on an incline and pushes her body up the incline with her feet. A picture of Emily on water skis illustrates her abilities before she broke her ankle. Emily walks in the snow and smiles.

(SPEECH)
JAKE JANUSZEWSKI: I'm Jake Januszewski. I'm a physical therapist at Essentia Health. Emily had a lot of goals that she wanted to accomplish. But with any patient, right away, to have your end goal your whole-sys goal, is not realistic, and it can be very mentally challenging. So you have to build small goals along the way. The small goals begin with walking, the small goals begin with balancing, things that typically are easy for an average person to perform. But once you start adding these small goals together, then something such as slalom skiing, it can be something where you can accomplish it.

(DESCRIPTION)
Jake Januszewski wears a white polo shirt. He watches as Emily pedals on an exercise bike. She uses one foot to push her body up an incline. She walks on a wooden incline forwards and backwards. She balances one foot directly in front of the other on a small rectangular bar. She balances and throws a yellow ball into a square. She walks quickly through the snow in her blue snow shoes.

(SPEECH)
EMILY ROBERTS: Keeping those goals in mind and realizing that the physical is going to happen, because mentally, I had to stay strong. And Jake was able to help me with those goals. Now that I'm fully recovered, I am back to 100%. I would say 110%, that ankle is even stronger than it was before.

(DESCRIPTION)
Jake presses on her ankle. She presses her foot on a slightly elevated disk to demonstrate her strength and range of motion. Emily holds a pen at a desk in the Essentia facility. She wears a name tag. She smiles and talks to a woman in a blue coat with a name tag behind a large counter. She speaks to a woman holding a baby.

(SPEECH)
Here at Essentia, we care for each other like nowhere else. This is our community. This is where we live. We are here in it together, taking care of each other and our families, and we're called to make a healthy difference. And I felt very cared for. And they made a healthy difference in my life.

(DESCRIPTION)
Now outside, Emily walks through the snow. The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health.

Dottie's Story

Dottie Angier is a woman of action. To find relief when she experienced shoulder pain, she saw Dr. Amy Lewica, an orthopedic surgeon at Northern Orthopedics who does surgeries at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd. After a year of cortisone shots, the pain returned. Dr. Lewica suggested reverse shoulder replacement because 20 years earlier, Dottie had had extensive rotator cuff surgery.

"My first impression was that he's kind and gentle and sweet, and I thought, 'this is going to be OK.'... He had me doing something and explained what that was preparing me for in real life—like pretending to push a button like you would on an elevator. He showed me the muscle it was helping. It was incredible."

Dottie became a student of reverse shoulder replacement and did her homework. Her surgery was Oct. 20. "For me, the thing I had to accept is that Dr. Lewica said they do the reverse shoulder for pain, and the fact was that I was going to have some limitation," she recalls.

Dr. Lewica included physical therapy in her recovery plan. Dottie thought she would be fighting her way through it in discomfort, grinding her teeth. "I didn't know anything about the physical therapy part of it," she recalls about that first day. "I walked in and my physical therapist, Greg Wiger, said it wouldn't hurt, and I thought 'yeah, right.' I thought it was going to be horrible."

Greg quickly built Dottie's trust. "My first impression was that he's kind and gentle and sweet, and I thought, 'this is going to be OK.' What I liked about him was that each week he had me doing something and explained what that was preparing me for in real life—like pretending to push a button like you would on an elevator. He showed me the muscle it was helping. It was incredible. Greg's funny and professional. We've formed the mutual admiration society," she chuckled.

Now, Dottie knows physical therapy is not about pain, but about healing. "I've done serious surgery without physical therapy, and serious surgery with physical therapy. Without the physical therapy, I was doing what I would normally do and it hurt. When I did what I learned through physical therapy, there was no pain."

Dottie says she's glad she didn't put off the surgery or the physical therapy. "I'm as happy as a clam," she says.

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