Rosemary Reese is a lifelong horse enthusiast. She lives on a 400-acre farm outside of South Boston, Virginia with her husband and their children, dogs, and horses. One day last fall, Rosemary was in the process of penning one of her horses, Spirit, into a stall. Spirit had another idea, and rushed past Rosemary to escape into the pasture, accidentally pushing Rosemary’s leg into the stall wall. Rosemary ended up with a fractured tibial plateau, which is the area on the front of the shinbone. As Rosemary soon learned, injury to the tibial plateau can majorly impact your life! Rosemary’s injury negatively affected her knee joint, weight-bearing ability, stability and motion.
Prior to the accident, Rosemary was accustomed to a life of independence and mobility. She drove herself anywhere she needed to go, whether it was to go shopping or to watch her daughter’s sports activities. She worked as a caretaker for a friend’s horses. She was an active member of Scottsburg Baptist Church, where she participated in a Sunday school class and played piano. She enjoyed riding horses sand taking walks around her farm. She was able to help her daughter move into her freshman dorm at Christopher Newport University.
Rosemary had surgery soon after the accident, which repaired the tibial plateau fracture with a plate on her tibia and screws in her knee. Her surgeon recommended waiting to begin physical therapy, so for around two months, Rosemary’s activity was limited to hobbling around her house with a walker. She experienced pain and swelling in her right leg and foot. Walking and standing were nearly impossible, and stairs were off limit – which meant no attending her Sunday school class, which meets on the second floor of her church. Driving was not allowed, and even riding in a car was painful and cumbersome, so visiting her daughter at school was limited. Rosemary says, “Even something simple like potting flowers is much more complicated when you’re on a walker… There are just so many things that I now know I took forgranted.”
When her surgeon released her to begin physical therapy, Rosemary chose DOAR South Boston with Mike McClellan, MPT, Physical Therapist.
Rosemary says, “I was pretty pitiful when I started physical therapy. I had no quad muscle. The only way I could move and turn and use my leg was by moving my hip. They worked really hard with me because they knew I was really frustrated. I could only get around with the walker, which really limited me on where I could go and what I could do.”
She began with aquatic therapy, then graduated to using the treadmill, NuStep, bicycle and weight machines in addition to working one-on-one with Mike and his team.
When Rosemary could lift her leg up off the floor on her own, she viewed it as major accomplishment. But more milestones followed. Rosemary says, “For a while, my number one accomplishment was when I could use the bicycle and rotate the pedals all around… Now, I’m walking up and down stairs with one hand on the railing.”
The stairs were an important milestone, since her Sunday school class is on the second floor of her church and there is no handicapped access. Just last weekend, she was able to return to her Sunday school class for the first time. She also was able to stand long enough to groom her horses – although she’s not able to start riding again quite yet.
Rosemary says, “My next milestone will be to lose the cane and walk on my own. I want to build up to walking one mile, then two miles. I want to be able to visit my daughter and go shopping with her. Riding my horses will be another milestone down the line.”
Rosemary’s slow but steady progress has reinforced for her the importance of hard work and patience. She says, “If you don’t work hard and put in the effort, you won’t make any changes. When I started physical therapy, I could only do half turns on a bike. It was depressing! You have to stick with it. Little things that seem inconsequential really do add up.”
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