When entering a physical rehabilitation program following surgery, injury, or illness, there’s no obligation to bring a positive attitude with you to therapy sessions. But for Laurels rehab client Sandra Wright, there really is no other alternative. Optimism and positivity are just part of who she is, and it shows in her dedication to her therapy program, her outcome, as well as the impact she has on everyone around her.
A Toledo native and a graduate of Woodward High School, Wright worked in the printing business for 28 years and owned an office-cleaning business from 1980 to 2014. This mother of two daughters, four grandchildren, and (soon) four great grandchildren loves spending time with family and visiting the Eleanor Kahle Senior Center. She also enjoys cooking, baking, and collecting records from the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Wright’s need for therapy stems from her recent total hip replacement—the result of a medical condition that caused her severe pain and put her at high risk of a debilitating fracture. She states, “The pain had gotten so bad that I could hardly get into bed or into the car, and I had to use a walker because I was so unstable. I figured I’d better get the hip replaced before it breaks.”
Julie Leidel, Rehab Services Director for The Laurels of Toledo, explains that Wright’s hip problem was due not to normal wear-and-tear, as is usually the case, but to a condition called avascular necrosis. With this condition, the blood supply to the bones is inadequate, causing bone tissue to weaken and die.
Wright chose The Laurels of Toledo for post-surgical rehab after talking with a neighbor who was also preparing to undergo hip replacement surgery. “She told me they’ll pick you up from the hospital and drive you to the facility, and once you’re in outpatient rehab, they’ll shuttle you to your appointments and back home for free. I thought, how wonderful! How can I pass that up? So I called the therapy department and got an appointment with Julie. She and I had multiple conversations before I came here, so I knew exactly what to expect,” she says.
As soon as Wright arrived at The Laurels on October 26, she began to demonstrate an attitude that Leidel describes as remarkable. “Sandra is such a trooper! She not only does everything within her therapy protocol, but she also loves doing all the extra things in the gym in order to reach her goals sooner. That’s not the case with most rehab clients. Also, she has a wonderful personality and is always making people laugh and doing what she can to motivate others around her,” Leidel states.
What’s more, Wright never misses an opportunity to participate in events and activities at The Laurels—whether it’s joining in a volleyball game in the dining room, attending musical performances, or playing bingo or card games. “I’ll participate in everything and volunteer for anything,” she says.
In addition to a wide variety of leg exercises, Wright’s therapy involved working with the NuStep, which is a recumbent cross trainer considered state-of-the-art in the rehab community, as well as the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill, a cutting-edge therapy modality that uses differential air pressure technology to “unweight” patients as they walk, stand, or perform various exercises. Leidel comments, “Sandra was walking with a shuffling gait pattern, reduced stride, and lack of heel strike. Using the AlterG, we were able to unweight her by 30 percent, allowing her to significantly improve her gait pattern.”
Leidel further notes that one of the challenges facing Wright was that her hip flexor muscles were so weak that she was unable to lift her legs into bed. To help overcome this obstacle, Wright used an assistive device called a leg lifter, which, Leidel says, essentially looks like one of those “invisible” dog leashes sold at amusement parks and carnivals. This device has a loop at one end that is placed over the foot, and it’s stiff enough that the legs can be lifted using arm strength.
In anticipation of Wright completing inpatient therapy and being discharged home, the Laurels therapy team also conducted a home safety visit at her apartment complex to make sure she would be able to get around and function there safely. They found that the complex is set up very well in this regard—even featuring a chair lift that carries residents down to the parking garage and a heated driveway that prevents slippery snow and ice from accumulating. Because of her hip precautions, however, the team will order an extended tub bench for Wright so she can get in and out of the bathtub safely.
Though, as of this writing, Wright still uses a walker, her pain is no longer an issue and her mobility and function have improved dramatically. She plans to continue rehab at The Laurels on an outpatient basis and looks forward to leaving that walker behind altogether. Once fully recovered, she plans to travel to North and South Carolina to visit family there and to resume all her favorite activities. ❦