Living Again

It’s fall 2017, and children around the country recently returned to school after summer recess. The beginning of the school year is vastly different than last year for Jackson kindergarten teacher Colleen Anderson. The year before, mere days before the first day of school, Colleen was arranging her classroom when she injured her back.

“My life was immediately changed,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t move; I couldn’t do anything, and nothing provided relief.”

For three weeks, Colleen did nothing but lay in bed and ice her back. She returned to her classroom but couldn’t interact with her kindergarteners in the way she was used to. At the end of the school day, Colleen could barely walk to her car.

“As a teacher for young children, I’m used to bending over to engage in conversation, helping students tie their shoes or picking up the scattered toys and crayons. It was hard to pretend I wasn’t hurting all day,” Colleen said.

When the doctors and physical therapists near her home were unable to help, Colleen followed a friend’s recommendation to try St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea.

“From the moment I walked into the Chelsea Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation office, I was taken seriously, treated professionally and I could tell they were dedicated to helping me recover.”

Colleen received two pain injections and was referred to physical therapy with the St. Joe’s Chelsea Outpatient Physical Therapy team. At the time, Colleen was living in despair. For six months, Colleen couldn’t do any physical activity beyond the seven hour school day. She’d finish school, go home and lay on the couch with her feet up. Before her injury, Colleen would work out several days a week.

“I began believing that this was my life now, and I’d soon become reliant on a cane or walker while I was only in my 40s.”

Physical therapy at St. Joe’s Chelsea changed that.

“I was treated like the most important patient. My physical therapist, Joe, began every session looking me in the eye and asking how I was doing. He recognized I was hurting beyond physically. When I was in that much pain, I was distressed and it was hard to keep a positive attitude.”

Joe worked with Colleen to reassure her that she would get better. He gave pep talks, reassurance and explained what she needed to do to rebuild her strength and eliminate pain, and how long it would take to get there. And during the process, Joe taught Colleen proper form, how to assess her own body and what to do to prevent future injury.

Through a gradual program, Colleen regained strength, mobility and her confidence. She’s finished physical therapy, works out six days a week without pain and back to her old self.

“Not a day goes by that I am not thankful and grateful to have my life back. I received the gift of health from St. Joe’s Chelsea.”

And, in this new school year, Colleen is the teacher she wants to be.

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