In May 2018, Anita Diesing hired a handyman to install more flooring in the attic of her Del Webb home.
He wasn’t certain she needed it.
“Mrs. Anita, I don’t think you need more flooring, you have plenty of flooring up here already,” he yelled down to her.
Anita thought better.
“Well, let me come up and see,” she told him.
So Anita climbed the pull-down attic ladder to see for herself. At some point on her way down, she apparently missed a rung.
“I’m not really sure what happened. All I know is I didn’t just fall down, I flew down that ladder,” she recalled. “I landed six feet away from the ladder.”
The fall broke the femur bone in her left leg, the first time she’d ever broken a bone in her 73 years of life.
Doctors told her she would need physical therapy to learn how to walk again.
Anita turned to Physical Therapy Care & Aquatic Rehab of Fort Bend.
“I went in in a wheelchair,” she remembered. “But one year later I walked out.”
The road to rehabilitation was arduous and filled with physical pain and emotional pain, she recalled.
“There were times I didn’t think I would make it,” she admitted. “I cried a lot. I did a lot of soul-searching.”
Anita — “a very young 73” — couldn’t see herself spending years in a wheelchair.
“I like to get out and do stuff, travel,” she said. “I didn’t want to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life.”
Fortunately, her therapist made sure she didn’t have to.
Rebecca Peacock, PT, one of the physical therapists who worked with Anita, showed plenty of compassion along with a healthy dose of insistence, Anita recalled.
“Rebecca worked with me and wouldn’t give up on me,” Anita said.
“When I was down and depressed, she would lift me up emotionally. They were always telling me to have a little patience and that I would walk again. But they made me work for it every step of the way”
Anita visited her therapists three times a week for about an hour each visit.
Every other day she exercised at home as instructed.
Patti Kocich, physical therapist and president of the company, said mood swings are common during rehab.
“We see a lot of tears,” Kocich said. “A lot of our clients express fears. It’s something we deal with quite often. If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, come sit in our waiting room sometime and you’ll leave thinking you are in pretty good shape physically and mentally.”
At times Anita felt discouraged. Other times she felt encouraged.
Sometimes, the encouragement boosted Anita’s aspirations to the point she was ready to climb out of the chair and start walking.
But her therapists tempered her enthusiasm.
“You’re not ready quite yet,” they told her. “Don’t worry, you will walk. You will. But not now. We need to go a little slower.”
Kocich said rehab programs are developed to help clients improve gradually at a pace which ensures they rehabilitate correctly.
It doesn’t do them any good if they rehab so fast they pick up bad habits, like a limp, she explained.
Fortunately, Anita was naturally optimistic, which helped make the therapists’ jobs easier, and was willing to take advice from her therapists.
“Life can change in a second. One moment you’re bee-bopping around on a ladder and the next second your leg is broke and you’re in rehab,” Kocich said.
“You have to have the inner-strength to get your life back to normal, to get your health back. As physical therapists, we can only do so much. We can be the best physical therapists in the world, but if our clients don’t have the fighting attitude it will take them a lot longer to get their lives back to normal. It’s truly a team effort.”
As Anita’s rehab progressed, Rebecca offered her an incentive:
“We need to graduate you,” she told Anita.
That goal, to graduate from a wheelchair to a walker worked wonders, Anita recollected.
“It’s all I thought about, getting out of that chair and graduating to a walker.”
The day she reached her goal brought tears to her eyes.
‘I couldn’t thank them enough,” she recalled. “They had stood beside me every step of the way.”
But Rebecca wasn’t finished just yet. She set a new goal for Anita.
“I had been using a walker for about two to three months when they told me it was time for me to graduate to a cane,” Anita said.
That meant more work.
“I can’t tell you how wonderful they were. They were there for me physically and mentally,” she said.
“Whenever I thought things weren’t getting better, they assured me I was improving. They just would not give up on me.”
When the day came for her to graduate to a cane, Anita admitted she had mixed emotions about leaving the walker behind.
Months later she put down the cane for good.
On the day of her big graduation — walking without assistance — Anita showed up with a graduation robe and mortar board.
“We weren’t expecting her to show up in a robe,” Kocich recounted. “It was delightful. When we get that kind of response from one of our clients, it reminds us of why we got into physical therapy in the first place.”
Once again, Anita had mixed feelings about graduating from a cane to walking without assistance.
On the one hand, she wouldn’t need to visit her therapists weekly anymore. And on another hand, she wasn’t certain she was ready to try it on her own.
“Part of me was worried that I would stop walking without their regular encouragement and help,” she said. “And part me didn’t want to leave. They had become like family to me. I knew I’d miss them.”
Nevertheless, one year after she wheeled herself in to Physical Therapy Care & Aquatic Rehab of Fort Bend, Anita walked out the door without assistance.
“I can’t thank them enough for what they did for me, for the help they gave me,” she said. “They gave me my life back.”