Skip to main content

Rehabilitation services: Physical therapy

Skip section navigation

Physical therapy patient stories

Patient stories

Marion Tragner

Marion Tragner

Marion Tragner experienced a cardiac arrest in June 2011 at age 69, followed by numerous complications that affected the circulation in her right leg. After several surgeries to try to save her leg, her right leg was amputated just above the knee.




Paul Shelmidine

Paul Shelmidine

Paul Shelmidine of Blaine, Minnesota, an avid cyclist, had a headache when he went on a 20-mile bike ride in May 2012. When he got home, his wife noticed facial drooping and weakness on Shelmidine’s right side. He was immediately hospitalized and underwent neurosurgery.

Toni Grundstrom

Toni Grundstrom

Toni Grundstrom, a resident of Andover, has received therapy at SKRI – Mercy Hospital for the past two years to help regain functional losses related to multiple sclerosis (MS).


Robert Matchinsky

Robert Matchinsky

Robert Matchinsky of Cambridge has lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for 17 years. His progressive form of MS requires him to adjust his daily schedule to align with the amount of energy and strength he has on that particular day.

Colleen Nelson

Colleen Nelson

Colleen Nelson of River Falls began having symptoms in late 2007, and was eventually diagnosed with polymyositis, a persistent inflammatory muscle disease causing weakness of the skeletal muscles that control movement.

Marion Tragner

Marion Tragner

Marion Tragner is a 2013
Inspiration Award winner
.

Marion Tragner of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota was admitted to Abbott Northwestern Hospital following a cardiac arrest in June 2011 at age 69. She also experienced numerous complications that affected the circulation in her right leg. After several surgeries to try to save her leg, her right leg was amputated just above the knee. She was then further challenged by a diagnosis of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, which resulted in an extra month in the hospital and then rehabilitation at a long-term care facility.

At the long-term care facility, Tragner faced recovery despite many challenges, including being on a ventilator, having a wound vac to assist healing of her residual limb, and learning how to manage with only one leg. After several months, Tragner was discharged to her home, where she received home care services.

Finally, in April 2012, Tragner was strong enough to begin outpatient therapy two days a week at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – New Ulm, where she attended diligently and worked hard, except for a hiatus of a few months after she fractured her arm in a fall at home.

Tragner’s daughter Debbie was by her side throughout her recovery, helping Tragner with wound care, transportation and much more. Despite all of her challenges, Tragner never gave up. She was diligent about her therapy and was fitted for a prosthesis. Her goal was to regain her independence – to walk, cook, do housework and drive her car.

Her therapists, Mary Bauer, PTA, STAR/P and Tammy Henle, PT, CLT, STAR/C, attest to the fact that Tragner had achieved most of her goals and was working on a return to driving when she was discharged from outpatient therapy.

Tragner was open and encouraging with fellow patients, setting an example, always upbeat and goal oriented. She inspired her therapists, her family and other patients with the importance of perseverance and determination in a successful recovery.

Paul Shelmidine: Back in action after a stroke

Paul Shelmidine

Paul Shelmidine is a 2013 Inspiration Award winner.

Paul Shelmidine of Blaine, Minnesota, an avid cyclist, had a headache when he went on a 20-mile bike ride in May 2012. When he got home, his wife noticed facial drooping and weakness on Shelmidine’s right side. He was immediately hospitalized and underwent neurosurgery.

During acute inpatient rehabilitation at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – Abbott Northwestern Hospital, therapy began to address speech impairments and motor-balance deficits. As he progressed to independence in getting in and out of bed, walking and doing self-cares, he was discharged from the hospital and began outpatient therapy at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – Unity Hospital.

Shelmidine’s physical therapist at Unity, Elizabeth Jenson, DPT, said, “We treated Paul for over a year, and after each session, when Paul would be challenged by a new task, his response would be, ‘I can do it, don't worry, I can get it.’ Paul truly is the definition of actively turning disability to ability.” In addition, he took the time to encourage other patients. Jenson remarked that in one particular instance, Shelmidine’s empathy and encouragement actually made a drastic change in a stroke patient’s attitude.

Despite financial challenges (including loss of his home) that occurred because Shelmidine was unable to work, an unexpected seizure during the night and even a common cold that resulted in physical setbacks, he would still look up and smile at his very worried wife, Wanda, and say “Don’t worry. We can do it.”

Jenson said, “Then the one day he was finally able to raise his R foot up independently. I remember jumping with joy, and fighting my tears as I watched Paul look up beaming at Wanda and Wanda smiling back.”

Shelmidine continued to put complete effort into everything his therapists requested of him. Today, he is driving, has moved into a new home, speaks well with much less effort, and has resumed cycling on a daily basis. His mobility status, according to Jenson, is being able to participate functionally and safely in activities without limitation. His therapists knew he could do it. He truly inspired them and everyone else around him.

Toni Grundstrom

Toni Grundstrom

Toni Grundstrom is a 2012 Inspiration Award winner.

Toni Grundstrom, a resident of Andover, has received therapy at SKRI – Mercy Hospital for the past two years.

Grundstrom is being treated to regain functional losses related to multiple sclerosis (MS).

She is an active woman, involved in her family and community despite progressive disability related to MS. When she began therapy, she required considerable mobility assistance.

According to Lora Anderson, manager, SKRI – Mercy Hospital, Grundstrom was non ambulatory and significantly limited by lower left extremity weakness, spasticity, incoordination, decreased activity tolerance and muscular tightness.

During the course of therapy, Grundstrom progressed from walking a few feet in the parallel bars with much assistance, to ambulating in the Lite Gait on the treadmill, to being able to walk with only the aid of a walker. As she mastered use of the walker, she was able to walk progressively greater distances in a shorter time.

Anderson said that Grundstrom arrived at every therapy session "with a smile on her face, kind words for her therapists, and a spirit of courage and determination that is infectious to those around her." She offered encouraging words to other patients in the gym in the midst of her own challenging sessions.

Despite her disability, Grundstrom is a skilled artist in stained glass medium and shared pictures of her work with her therapists and fellow patients. Her work has been purchased by clinics and businesses throughout the state. She even entered a piece of her work in the 2012 Sister Kenny International Art Show by Artists with Disabilities mixed media category.

Bridge over Calm Waters

Bridge over Calm Waters by Toni Grundstrom.

The patience that Toni's art requires as a result of her functional limitations further inspires others to persevere to achieve their goals. The most recent piece that Toni sold took eight months to create and is now proudly displayed in a clinic setting for others to enjoy.

"As I look back over the treatment sessions we have had with Toni, it has become even more obvious to me how deserving of this award she is," said Anderson.

"She never shies away from a challenge in therapy and is able to offer her own goals to therapists as they progress her treatment plan, making therapy all the more meaningful and motivating."

Grundstrom is an inspiration to others in the way she works hard and strives for positive change. She handles her disability with determination and grace, inviting others to be a part of her experience while maintaining a positive outlook, compassion and, of course, a sense of humor.

Robert Matchinsky

Robert Matchinsky of Cambridge has lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for 17 years.

Matchinsky's progressive form of MS requires him to adjust his daily schedule to align with the amount of energy and strength he has on that particular day.

However, Kristy Johnson and Jessica Anderson, his physical therapists at SKRI – Cambridge, say that his attitude is one of focusing on what he can do and not what he can't do.

He uses an electric scooter in the community, but is able to use a walker or cane to stand for a few minutes or walk short distances. He embraces challenges and will never take "no" or "you can't do that" for an answer.

He maintains a positive attitude, and is often seen encouraging others in the waiting room while awaiting his appointment. His has a friendly smile and kind words for each person he encounters, making the day a little brighter for others.

Matchinsky is involved in MS community events to raise awareness about the condition. He recently cheered on participants of the MS 150 bike race along the race route, where he inspired the participants of this grueling event by serving as a real name and face for the cause.

He also participated in an MS walk this summer and made a TV appearance. He uses these events to show his gratitude to those who have helped to improve his function and to the MS society, through which he himself received support.

Colleen Nelson

Colleen Nelson

Colleen Nelson is a 2012 Inspiration Award winner.

Colleen Nelson, River Falls, who received therapy at SKRI – River Falls, began having symptoms in late 2007, and was eventually diagnosed with polymyositis, a persistent inflammatory muscle disease causing weakness of the skeletal muscles that control movement.

Her condition and functional abilities progressively worsened. By January 2010, she was wheelchair-bound and required total assistance for personal care.

Due to her debilitated status and a history of 12 falls over a three-year period, she received home care therapies for a year to gain enough strength to participate in outpatient therapy.

When Nelson began outpatient therapy at SKRI – River Falls in October 2011, she was able to walk only very short distances with a rolling walker and could tolerate only light, seated exercise.

She required a chair with arms to maintain balance during exercises and was unable to lift her left leg while in a seated position. Her physician even ordered a power wheelchair for her at that time because he believed she would need it for the long-term.

Despite a daunting diagnosis and prognosis, Nelson maintained a positive attitude and was determined to regain her independence.

"She focused on her goals and never complained when asked to perform any new activity that was difficult or scary for her," said Sarah Harvieux, PT, Nelson's therapist.

During the next 18 months, Nelson attended physical therapy regularly and performed her home exercise program diligently.

"As a team," said Harvieux, "we were able to celebrate milestones such as preparing a sandwich for lunch, standing up, and going up and down two steps." These were achievements that enabled Nelson eventually to rejoin her card group, take a family vacation, drive a car and walk without a walker.

Nelson, who continues today to perform her home exercises, says her power wheelchair is now pulled out of the closet once a month for her grandchildren to drive and keep the battery fresh.

Nelson's determination, sunny nature, and outstanding recovery, inspires others and gives them hope in what determination can accomplish.

"As a care provider," said Harvieux, "Colleen has inspired me to help others achieve their goals, even if the road is long and the prognosis uncertain."