Ascension Via Christi physical therapy restores hope, independence | Ascension

Ascension Via Christi physical therapy restores hope, independence


After surviving an accident that totally destroyed their SUV four years ago, Mona “Sue” Smith was afraid that her days as an independent woman might be over.

The crash was the first in a series of health issues that resulted in constant pain, despite multiple surgeries.

“I had no hope,” says the 67-year-old retired federal court deputy. “I lost all my hope of living normally.”

That changed after she began working with Melissa Warders, a physical therapist who sees patients at Ascension Via Christi Physical Therapy Center on Socora.

“I would weep to Melissa because, without her, I had no hope,” says Sue. “She helped me get that back.”

It’s complicated

Unbeknownst to Sue, who walked away seemingly uninjured by the wreck, she had torn the gluteus medius muscle in her right hip. What she thought was residual soreness became ongoing pain caused by the tear.

Hip surgery didn’t repair the tear or alleviate the pain. She compensated by putting her weight on the left side of her body, which led to a herniated disc in her left lower back nearly two years later.

She underwent another surgical procedure to repair the disc and was pain-free and hopeful for the five weeks that followed.

“Then the pain returned and my normal life felt further away than ever,” says Sue, who was so debilitated that hired a housekeeper to do the household chores that she could no longer do.

Her recovery was further complicated when she tripped on an uneven sidewalk, breaking her right elbow and her left wrist in three places. The broken wrist led to her having her third surgical procedure in just three years.

Sue then began seeing Lisa Beauchamp, an occupational therapist who works with Warders at Ascension Via Christi.

During one of their sessions, Beauchamp suggested that Sue schedule a 20-minute, no-cost consultation with Warders to see if physical therapy could help her alleviate her hip and back pain.

On the right path

Sue began working with Warders in August 2020 and within six months she went from barely being able to bend over to reach her knees to touching the floor. Soon, she was confidently climbing stairs and taking long walks without any pain or nerve sensitivity in her left leg.

“One of the best days of my life was gaining enough confidence in my health to no longer need the services of my housekeeper,” she says.

For Sue, living independently was even more important than ending the pain.

“I felt I had a lot of life left to live and I couldn’t imagine or accept that it was going to be so limited,” she says.

She continues to work with Warders to maximize her strength, flexibility and endurance.

“For people like me who feel like they have no other options or don’t want another surgery, physical therapy can be a life-changer,” says Sue, who now is looking forward to traveling internationally with her husband, Dave, and being able to provide more hands-on care for her elderly mother.

“I am forever grateful for Melissa and her emotional support, kindness, encouragement and professional knowledge,” says Sue. “I always leave an appointment feeling even more empowered.”

Learn more about Ascension Via Christi Physical Therapy