Standing Strong — Cindy’s Inspiring Ankle Rehab Journey

Cindy Davidson - back to swimming after ankle surgery and rehab

Therapeutic Associates



It was a busy spring afternoon when Cindy Davidson’s life took an unexpected turn. With just a little time before her kids would be home from school, she was rushing about to get things done. Walking into her garage, a simple misstep caused her to roll her ankle. The injury she sustained at that moment marked the beginning of a long, challenging journey that despite setbacks, was defined by perseverance, and ultimately resulted in triumph.

Cindy’s doctor referred her to physical therapy. Initially, she found little success as she worked to rehab her ankle. Rather than give up on PT, Cindy opted to find a different therapist, maintaining an optimistic outlook. A quick Google search for “Physical Therapy near me” led her to Therapeutic Associates South Hillsboro Physical Therapy where she met PT and clinic director Bailey Ouellette.

Under Bailey’s guidance, Cindy’s rehabilitation took on a new dimension. Bailey’s expertise and personalized approach focused on stability and strengthening exercises aimed at getting Cindy back to her normal daily activities. With pulled ligaments and tendons on both sides of her foot as well as a bruised talus bone, Cindy had her work cut out for her. Yet, working with Bailey, she quickly found herself progressing toward a complete recovery.

The change in results was inspiring, and something Bailey said can simply be credited to finding a good match between patient and physical therapist.

“Just like with any healthcare provider, if things are not working for you, it doesn’t mean that those things don’t work, it just means you need a better fit, one that works for you and your lifestyle,” Bailey stated. “There are a lot of physical therapists out there so make sure you find the one who makes sense for you.”

Physical therapist Bailey Ouellette and her patient Cindy Davidson smiling in triumphant victory after successful ankle rehab.

Personalized physical therapy

Utilizing shared decision making, Bailey worked with Cindy to create a tailored plan that not only addressed her ankle injury but also her confidence. Having regained her strength, mobility and stability, Cindy felt good about her situation once she finished her course of care.

“Things were really great for a while,” Cindy said. “Then about six months later I rolled it again.”

Despite her dedication and hard work that led to successful rehabilitation, Cindy found herself caught in a frustrating cycle of injury and recovery. About every six months, like clockwork, she would reinjure her ankle, sending her back to square one.

The cycle was relentless, and Cindy’s frustration grew with each setback.

“At times, I would sidestep, and it would just give out,” Cindy described. In an effort to discover what was wrong, she pressed her doctor, who was vague and simply explained that she was not a candidate for surgery. “I was feeling really defeated when I went back to Bailey, but she reassured me that we could keep working on it and get it as strong as possible.

“Bailey really listens, and when you’re there in front of her, it is clear that she cares about you,” Cindy shared. “She is interested and remembers things you share, so you build this personal connection.”

Rehab became more efficient with each reinjury. Bailey encouraged Cindy to strive toward walking as normally as she could and offered tips about how to assess what activities were okay and which to avoid based on the level of pain they caused or how long the pain lasted afterward.

For more than five years this pattern persisted. Then during a trip to the beach where her son was competing in a swim meet, it happened again. Cindy spent the weekend icing her ankle and wearing a brace, using crutches as necessary.

“When we got back and I went to Bailey, I knew, almost immediately, that something more was wrong. She was looking and doing a few things, then she said, ‘I think it’s time to go back to the doctor.’ She had never said that to me,” Cindy recalled.

Rather than revisit the same doctor, Cindy elected to call Sports Medicine Oregon where she had once had wrist surgery.

“The doctor told me that he could literally take my foot right out of its socket if he wanted to. An MRI confirmed that my ligaments were totally stretched out, some were torn, and I had a torn tendon. There was also the little bone that sits at the back of the heel that was broken off, twisted sideways and causing a lot of swelling.”

The solution? Surgery.

Pre- and post-operative PT

Once she understood the plan for surgery, Cindy went back to Bailey, intent on ensuring she was doing everything she could to set herself up for a successful outcome. In addition to post-operative physical therapy, working with a PT before surgery has many benefits that all lead to a faster and more optimal recovery.

Building strength and stability is especially important in situations like Cindy’s where an individual will need to be non-weight-bearing for an extended period after surgery. Not only does pre-surgical rehabilitation, also known as prehab, address these concerns, but it is also pivotal in reducing symptoms including swelling, pain and loss of mobility. Care may include manual therapy, including ASTYM, as well as specific, targeted exercises that are safe to do.

While Cindy’s experience with ankle trauma equipped her with a solid understanding of what her rehabilitation would look like, for many, prehab is an opportunity to mentally prepare for what the entire process will entail, from the surgery itself to the post-operative PT process.

After four weeks of non-weight-bearing and an additional five weeks in a boot, Cindy was ready to get back to physical therapy.

“It’s been different this time. I’ve been able to do more. I’ve been able to get stronger than I ever have been,” Cindy mused. “It’s different because while I’m still in pain, I am getting used to the idea that it isn’t because I’m hurting anything, it’s because I’m doing harder things to push myself.”

PT Bailey Ouelette works with ankle rehab patient Cindy Davidson in Hillsboro
a patient's experience in PT involves having fun as they rehabilitate
balancing on a stability ball at Hillsboro physical therapy, ankle rehab patient Cindy Davidson celebrates success alongside her PT Bailey Ouellette

Overcoming fear and reaching goals through PT

Having Bailey by her side to offer her expertise instills confidence that Cindy said she would not have on her own.

“She pushes me when I worry about things,” she said. “She will push me in just the right way and show me that I really can do it.”

Despite knowing she was safe in the PT clinic, Cindy said she was afraid to sidestep when she began rehab. She had been living in nearly constant fear of rolling her ankle again, and sidestepping was typically the culprit.

Helping patients overcome their fear can be a big part of rehabilitation and is not always an easy feat.

“You have to meet people where they’re at,” Bailey declared. “It might be breaking down a big activity, blocking it out so we have safe variables, and then, once there is that positive experience that builds a little more confidence, we can expand it.”

For Cindy, Bailey explained, this meant starting with simply stepping to the side, then moving into jumping to the side. It was stepping up onto a stable surface, then advancing to an unstable surface.

Keeping patients focused on their goals and educating them to see how what you are asking them to do will help them reach those goals, one milestone at a time, is pivotal, Bailey added. Cindy’s goal to get back to hiking with her kids and their dogs means building strength and stability in a manner that simulates walking on a trail, where terrain can be variable.

As she progresses her walking routine, Cindy is happy to be back to swimming, another of her favorite activities. Not only has being in the pool helped Cindy work on her ankle in a low-impact manner, but it has also led to weight loss and boosted her mental health.

woman and her dogs in a grassy parklike setting smiling for the camera

And, while she did not bother to wax her skis this past winter, she is looking forward to hitting the slopes next season.

“It’s been a long journey, but I feel like I’m so far ahead of the game from where I was before,” Cindy shared. “When I leave my PT appointments now, I’m sweating from working so hard, but I’m glad because Bailey knows I have big goals. So instead of calling it good once I could walk okay, she keeps pushing me and building my confidence.”

Cindy leans on Bailey’s knowledge and expertise, trusting her to know what she can do even more than she knows herself.

“She’ll tell me to do something, and I’ll say, ‘You’re crazy,’ but then she encourages me to just try and sure enough, I can do it.”

It is the apprehension, Bailey said, that often holds people back. Having a musculoskeletal expert on your recovery team, therefore, can help expedite the rehabilitation process in a safe and effective way.

“Seeing a PT right away after an injury is beneficial because it eliminates the questions and the self-doubt. People don’t know if they’re doing too much or not enough,” Bailey explained. “Being able to determine the right dosage is a big benefit of having a professional’s eyes on you.”

Restoring hope through physical therapy

Cindy’s journey through physical therapy exemplifies the power of perseverance, personalized care, and the invaluable guidance of a dedicated physical therapist. Despite facing numerous setbacks and challenges over the years, Cindy’s unwavering determination, coupled with Bailey’s expertise and support, propelled her toward a remarkable recovery. 

Cindy is not only regaining her physical strength and mobility but is also conquering her fears and regaining confidence in her ability to pursue her passions. Her story serves as a testament to the transformative impact of physical therapy in restoring not only the body but also the spirit, empowering individuals to overcome obstacles and reclaim their lives.

“There was a point for Cindy where I think it seemed like all the stuff she loved – running around with her kids, hiking, skiing – was slipping away,” Bailey reflected. “Now, there’s hope for getting back to all of that. And I would not be surprised if she finds herself doing even more, things she did not necessarily think she ever could. That is a testament to her hard work.”

The hard work, Cindy said, comes easy when you have a team supporting you and believing in you.

“I get so much of a boost from everyone I work with in the clinic. It’s fun and feels good when they tell me I’ve impressed them by what I can do and how strong I’ve gotten. It builds my self-confidence and makes me want to do even more. I believe in myself because they believe in me. I know how hard Bailey is working for me, so I want to work hard for her too.”

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