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From Wheelchair to Walking Again


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from wheelchair to walking again with the help of physical therapy

Therapeutic Associates

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#MyPTStory

As the snow blankets the hills and piles up in the mountains, Arthur Shaw looks toward the ski season with a profound sense of gratitude. Arthur first took to the slopes at 40 years old in the winter of 2000, when a woman he’d just met coaxed him to join her.

“I remember thinking, ‘You want me to put two sticks on my feet and go down this mountain?’ But it was a new relationship, so I figured why not try something new.”

That season, Arthur fell in love with the woman who would become his wife and the sport that would become his winter passion.

After more than two decades, skiing with his wife Kim remains one of Arthur’s favorite adventures. That, along with other active pursuits including golfing and biking, gave him the motivation to dedicate himself to recovery after an accident in the spring of 2021 left him broken and unable to walk.

Arthur smiling on a ski day

“The accident itself was devastating because it brought everything to a screeching halt,” Arthur said.

It happened in the blink of an eye as Arthur moved toward the edge of his deck to position a piece of the railing he was building. He stepped, placing his foot down on a piece of metal flashing that a contractor had been installing as a decorative element to the deck. Though Arthur had been told the flashing was adhered, it was not. The next thing he knew, he was on the ground more than 8 feet below.

When he slipped, Arthur recalled, he somehow pivoted and was therefore being pitched backward. Instinct kicked in and he shoved off the edge of the deck with his feet and flew out nearly a foot before plummeting to the ground.

“The first thing that hit was my left arm – I must have put it out to catch myself,” Arthur reflected. “The next thing that hit was my hips, and there was this loud – to me – popping, signifying that something broke. Then I knew, because I was laying there in complete agony.”

Home alone at the time of the fall, all Arthur could do was lay there and yell for help.

“I managed to flip myself over onto my right side into a fetal position. That took a bit of the pain away and I could hold my left wrist with my right hand to stabilize it a little bit. I knew something was broken really badly in my hips, so I was not moving, I was not going anywhere. I laid there screaming ‘help, help!’ at the top of my lungs as clear as I could, knowing somebody had to come find me.”

After what Arthur recalls as being about 10-15 minutes, a neighbor heard him, came to help and called 911.

“The rest is history,” he said.

Navigating the road to recovery.

The following day, two back-to-back surgeries marked Arthur’s first step on the road to recovery.

“I was in pretty bad shape,” he said. Not only was his wrist shattered, but Arthur’s sacrum (the large triangular bone that holds the pelvis and spinal column together and forms the posterior aspect of the pelvis) was cracked. “When you looked at the CT scan, there was about a half-inch gap in my sacrum, where it should have been together … there was a fissure.”

With the help of some hardware, a wrist surgeon and a pelvic surgeon at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, WA, put Arthur back together on May 29, 2021. On the 5th of June when he was able to sit upright in a chair for 20 minutes, Arthur was released to St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Hospital where he spent just over two weeks in physical therapy, mastering the ability to transition himself from wheelchair to bed and back again, from wheelchair to toilet and back again, and from wheelchair to his SUV and back again.

“I was committed to the process because even though I was on the maximum dose of Oxy, I can’t emphasize enough how much pain I was in every day,” Arthur said, recalling how difficult the process was. “If I focused on moving my left foot, then I could move it maybe a quarter of an inch.”

Big movements required assistance from his physical therapists and spiraled Arthur into unbearable pain.

“To lay down in bed, to move my legs inch-by-inch across the bed … never mind to raise my legs up off the floor onto the bed — every movement was absolutely excruciating.”

But the hard work paid off, he said, and he came a long way during in-patient physical therapy.

The next step in Arthur’s rehabilitation journey was a month of in-home PT, which essentially served as a break or transitional period, he explained.

“I wasn’t doing much work then and by the end of that month my surgeons were very concerned that I start some serious rehab.”

Aiming to keep things as easy on his wife as possible, Arthur simply Googled “Physical Therapy Clinics Near Me” and made an appointment at Therapeutic Associates Liberty Lake Physical Therapy, which was just up the street from their home.

“That’s when I met Skye and everything changed,” he said.

Reaching goals through physical therapy.

Physical therapist Skye Pauly recalls not quite knowing what to expect when she met Arthur. She knew he had been released for weight-bearing exercise, but his charts were missing information about his in-patient and in-home care. But despite rolling into the clinic in a wheelchair, unable to walk, Arthur left no room for doubt when it came to his motivation and enthusiasm.

“He was a very gung-ho guy from day one,” Skye said. “He came in ready to get better.”

From the moment the front desk staff met him as they opened the clinic door to welcome him inside, Arthur said he knew he had people in his corner at Therapeutic Associates.

“By the time I met Skye I was extremely limited. At home I was always in my wheelchair. I could get up in an emergency situation and maneuver myself 350 feet with a walker, that was it,” Arthur emphasized.

Despite his limitations, Arthur had lofty goals for himself and a timeline to reach them.  An active business owner with a background as a personal trainer who had worked closely with a physical therapist, Arthur understood the PT process. Because of his knowledge, Skye invited Arthur to design his own program for them to follow.

“I printed out what I thought was a really good program and Skye said, ‘Arthur, it’s not good enough, it’s too lame for the level of rehabilitation for where you are and where you want to be.’ I was babying myself and Skye said, no way!”

It was the end of July and Arthur had already made plans to be skiing by January. His wife had a big job taking care of him, and Arthur saw their journey through it all leading back to the slopes of the local ski areas, carving turns together down their favorite runs.

Skye decided right away she was not going to cut her new patient any slack, and planned to push him within the bounds of what he was allowed to do, ensuring his progress was safe and significant all at once.

“I worked on meeting him where he was at with a focus on getting him where he wanted to go. We became a team — I was the movement coach and he got to do all the hard work. Arthur took really well to that, and it was fun!”

Skye customized a plan of care for Arthur that incorporated strength building and balance work along with manual therapy and plenty of patient education.

“Arthur would just soak up all the information,” Skye explained. “His big thing was knowing what the point of an exercise was, so whenever I could, I would tie the exercises to his functional goals. That was a huge motivator for him.”

Skye took time to understand what Arthur was feeling, connect it to what was happening with his body, and show him how what they were working on would address it. Using an anatomy app on her iPad, she could point out where muscles attach and why a certain stretch or strengthening movement would help him with his pain, imbalance, immobility or weakness.

“Getting out of pain was a big goal for me. The fall – I busted my body – and I just wanted to start feeling normal. I was definitely focused on my goals to be able to golf and ride my bike, take walks with my wife and ski, but I was extremely motivated to get rid of the pain,” Arthur said. “The pain is exhausting.”

Arthur patient story collage

Taking the journey one step at a time.

Working with Arthur, Skye could help him identify when his pain would get out of control and which movements would fire up certain areas of his body. Knowing what triggered the most pain allowed them to work collaboratively on exercises to address it. At times, the injury to Arthur’s hand and wrist added what Skye called “an interesting wrinkle” to his rehabilitation.

“We had to pivot sometimes, like away from pushups,” she said.

For Arthur, having someone like Skye on his team helping him take each step along the way to get to the next level was what ultimately got him to the finish line.

“Skye works with hundreds or maybe thousands of patients during the year, but she paid attention to the smallest details that were specific to my situation,” Arthur said. “She got how I think as an individual; was able to get inside my mind to know how to get me to take action on what she wanted me to do. She was my cheerleader. She knew how to celebrate a win, which is really important in the process. She knew how to be a coach, which is what I was looking for — you don’t get to the finish line without a coach,” he added, reflecting on the multiple triathlons he’s completed in his life.

At 62 years old, seven weeks after Arthur rolled into the Therapeutic Associates Liberty Lake clinic in a wheelchair, riddled with pain, he walked back out without a walker, without a cane, without so much as a limp.

The work was still far from over, but reaching that goal that day bolstered Arthur’s dedication and unwavering enthusiasm for his journey to a full recovery, something Skye believes he can accomplish.

“I need to pull up my socks and get to work,” Arthur mused. “Ski season is here.”

We look forward to being a part of your healthcare team.

From injury recovery to movement and performance enhancement, patient success is our passion. Our therapists are committed to the application of evidence-based treatment techniques to ensure you experience the best in rehabilitation and preventative care and see progress with every visit.

Man and woman biking outdoors

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