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After being around Betty Jean Gray for a few minutes it’s easy to pick up on her passion, energy and enthusiasm for everything. Although a past spinal fusion won’t allow her to stand straight, and multiple joint replacements have inhibited her range of motion, she is the epitome of her personal mantra and Sir Isaac Newton’s first law: A body in motion stays in motion. So, when Betty Jean finally found a team of physical therapists truly dedicated to helping her stay in motion, she became a devotee.

 

Help is found where least expected

Born and raised in Orlando, Florida, she began golfing at the age of three and playing competitively by the time she was five. Even after a diagnosis of severe osteoarthritis in her hips and back when he was just 38, she continued to run competitively until her doctor insisted that she get her hips replaced when she was 45. With no physical therapy, she was back at work in three weeks.

Fast forward nearly 20 years to 2016 and it was time to replace those hips again. Next a spinal fusion and joint replacements for both knees at the same time. After that and 50 years of working in dentistry and taking care of her aging mother, Betty Jean decided to retire and join her husband Jim Hull in Mountain City in 2019. It was shortly after the move that her shoulders started bothering her.

Following her previous surgeries, Betty Jean had not had good experiences with physical therapy outside of Boone. So, after opting for an arthroscopic surgery in one shoulder to buy some time in 2020, she reluctantly and skeptically decided to try The Rehabilitation Center (TRC) in Boone for physical therapy. She just knew it was going to be like her past experiences.

“I was extremely wrong. After the arthroscopic surgery I was in a lot of pain,” she remembers. “My PT immediately realized what was going on and gave me an exercise to do to relieve that pain and discomfort. I thought, this is really different. This person really cares. This person is thinking outside the box. She immediately got me out of pain. Then when I came back to see her, she was able to evaluate what was going on and we went from there and set up my program.”

According to Physical Therapist Kelsey Mancini, physical therapy is often used to help people reduce or manage their pain in many ways. “Exercise in general is a proven way to reduce pain and improve strength and function. What works for one may not work for another. Physical therapy also can include manual therapy such as soft tissue mobilization (massage techniques), joint mobilization, dry needling, etcetera, which are often effective at pain reduction.”

After getting her pain under control, confidence in her physical therapy team – Kelsey Mancini, PT and Tiffany Weitzen, PTA – gave Betty Jean the motivation to proceed with having her left shoulder replaced.

“I knew I was going to be in good care. And that was the motivating factor in having my right shoulder replaced six months later because I would have my same team that I had before,” she said.

 

Moving forward with confidence

In November 2020, Dr. Ben Parker at AppOrtho replaced her left shoulder and in June 2021, he replaced her right shoulder and also did a carpometacarpal (CMC) suture suspension arthroplasty in both of her thumbs.

“Basically, I’m bionic. I’ve been through a lot in a short period of time,” she says. “It’s been amazing for me. It’s (TRC) made all the difference in the world. I can’t do certain things because of my spine fusion so the PT and PTA have thought outside the box and developed special exercises for me. I have a variety of exercises so when I go home to exercise, I have things that can do every day so I’m not doing the same thing and getting bored.”

Thinking outside of the box, is how physical therapists at TRC approach every patient – each with their own unique set of circumstances and backgrounds.

Betty Jean Gray

“Even if two patients have had the same procedure or have the same injury, they will be treated differently based on their presentation and other personal factors,” Kelsey said. “We are always adapting to find what best suits the individual in front of us. As PTs we often treat post-op patients. Our job in a nutshell is to help patients restore their function after surgery. It is very important that we protect the integrity of the surgery, so with this our job entails educating the patient on what activities are safe versus unsafe to do. In order to restore patient function after surgery, we work on things such as range of motion, strength, balance, edema management, pain management, and neuromuscular re-education. I always ask my patients what their goals are after surgery so we can tailor their treatment towards meeting those individual goals.”

With the customized program set up by Kelsey and Tiffany at TRC, Betty Jean’s goals are to have full range of motion in both shoulders by June 2022.

Even though Betty Jean is about to wrap up her physical therapy for her last shoulder surgery (most shoulder rehab times are 8-12 weeks), she’s already planning on coming back to work with the same team after her next spine surgery in the near future.

“I was not looking forward to more physical therapy, but this place is a Godsend. I can’t say enough about it. I talk to people every day about The Rehabilitation Center. I love the quietness of being there. They put you in private rooms. If you come outside, there’s not a lot of noise going on around you. The amazing thing is the massages and the stretches. I wish I could take them home with me,” she says.

“People I tell are taken aback because they’re used to what I was used to. They don’t realize they have the private care. They don’t realize they have a therapy pool. They don’t understand that there’s more to PT than machines and weights and exercises. I drive 45 minutes one way just to come to The Rehabilitation Center – rain, hail, snow or sleet. It’s worth it to me and it’s kind of social for me too because they’re friendly, they understand, and they get to know you. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Physical Therapists at The Rehabilitation Center treat an array of neurological and musculoskeletal conditions and provide patients with customized, therapeutic interventions to meet individual needs. With convenient locations in Boone and Linville, patients have access to strength and conditioning equipment and pools at the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center and The Williams YMCA of Avery County.

For more information on services offered call The Rehabilitation Center, visit apprhs.org/rehabcenter or call 828-268-9043 (Boone) or 828-737-7520 (Linville).