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At the Hands of a Skilled Physical Therapist
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I was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident in October, 2013. I suffered a lumbar vertebral body and L2-L3 transverse process fracture. After being released from the hospital I thought things would be okay because I was walking with assistance, but shortly thereafter things started quickly going downhill. After several weeks, I had lost strength and mobility and could not walk or stand. I thought that with physical therapy I would improve.

"Before" - starting treatment

When I first started working with Jeff, my physical therapist, he learned I had significantly deteriorated in status since my initial hospitalization. This suggested there was a nerve root compression causing paralysis in both of my lower extremities. He sent me back to my physician and they decided to operate immediately, performing a L3-L4 fusion. After surgery I requested to have Jeff provide my future physical therapy and I haven’t looked back since then.

My rehab team was able to help me work toward my goals by sharing their compassion, spirit, a desire to see me restored, patience, and a sense of calmness. They never let me focus on what I was capable of doing physically, but rather what we would accomplish together. The ability to stay positive through being with them and feeling their spirits lift my spirit played a huge role during the rough and dark months when I dealt with high levels of pain and loss of independence.

I identified my immediate goals: become pain free, feel my lower body, and be able to roll over in bed without assistance. Through my team’s compassion, patience, and dedication to see me overcome this challenge, I began to make improvements. I knew that with the right physical therapy team I would not have to accept any future limitations.

 "After" with Garreth Smoak

Making time at the clinic was the focal point of my day, one around which everything else was scheduled. It was hard work but changes came. Each day I trained like a pro and ate like the contest was tomorrow. Over the months I went from a wheelchair to a walker. How exciting it was to see the tiny twitch of a muscle in my quads progress to more and more fibers in the muscle group! I threw away the walker and progressed to crutches. More and more muscle returned millimeter by millimeter. I moved on to crushing the crutches and walking with knee orthosis with extension assistance.

Today I walk pain free. The most notable thing I’ve noticed since beginning physical therapy has been regaining my independence and having a normal life. The most significant overall changes I’ve noticed have been walking assistance-free, being pain free, and being able to live alone. I travel around the US and Europe often for work and I’m able to engage with my son.

What they did for me was not something you can be taught in school or found in a text book. I recommend a skilled physical therapist to everyone, from those with permanent disabilities to competitive athletes. Every physical therapist, in every clinic, has protocols which they follow. The results do not come from what you do, but rather how you do it.

Anyone can put you on a rehab program from a text book, or apply skills learned in school. But only life experience can be given to the patient through the hands of the physical therapist. Only compassion can be given from the heart, and that cannot be taught in school.


During treatment:

Right quad atrophy

  Starting to get left quad activation with TENS

Submitted by Jeff Gilliam, PT, PhD, OCS - Clinical Manager, ReQuest Physical Therapy

and Garreth Smoak, SPTA, MS, ATC, CSCS on behalf of their patient X


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