When Dawn Coleman walked through the doors of RehabWorks in July using a walker, she got a standing ovation from RehabWorks employees, patients, family members of patients, and, of course, her physical therapists.
“Dawn is the hardest working patient I’ve ever had, and I’ve been doing this for 24 years,” Cynthia Hardin, physical therapist and adult rehab coordinator at RehabWorks says.
“There were tears shed the day that Dawn walked through our doors on her own—our patients become family during their time with us, and it was a proud moment for all of us.”
Coleman, a 36-year-old native of Indiana, was in a car accident in 2014 after falling asleep at the wheel. The accident left her with incomplete paralysis and, after relocating to Opelika in 2016, Coleman began treatment at RehabWorks’ Opelika location.
“Therapy is Dawn’s full-time job now,” Hardin says. “She is here with us three days per week for an hour session each time and also does exercises on her own at home. She has had tremendous success since she began rehab, and part of that is due to her incredible determination.”
Coleman explains that when she started rehab after her accident, it was difficult to manage because at the time, she didn’t even have a wheelchair.
“It was hard in the beginning,” Coleman says. “It took so long to get my wheelchair, and at first my husband would literally carry me around on his back.
"We lived in an apartment with stairs and he had to carry me up and down the stairs, to the car, to the bed and anywhere I needed to go. He gave up his job and really his whole life to take care of me.”
Coleman began treatment at RehabWorks in December 2016, and it only took a few sessions before she and Hardin, her primary physical therapist, formed a bond.
“Dawn was apprehensive at first,” Hardin says. “She had previously had experiences at physical therapy facilities that left her frustrated and she was ready to get better. I think it only took about two sessions for us to warm up to each other and, since then, we’ve become close. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Dawn say ‘I can’t.’”
Hardin explains that RehabWorks approaches each patient as a team.
“We are the only outpatient facility in the area that offers physical, occupational and speech therapy at the same facility,” Hardin says.
“This is a huge advantage for our patients, and while some, like Dawn, may only need one type of therapy, we have a multi-disciplinary approach to our patients, and we pull from a wealth of knowledge that is provided by our entire team. Each therapist and therapy assistant brings something different to the table, and we collaborate to find creative ways to help each patient.”
Coleman explains that there are several factors that help her to stay motivated and work as hard as she does at her therapy sessions and at home.
“It was degrading to not even be able to use a normal bathroom and take care of myself when I first started therapy,” Coleman remembers. “But after just a few months I was improving a lot, and now I can cook, wash my own clothes, pull myself up to get things out of cabinets, and my husband was able to start working again.
“I like coming to therapy because the therapists push you,” Coleman explains. “They don’t let you quit until they know you’ve done as much as you possibly can.
"Everyone around here is always happy and there’s never any negativity. Some days I may be mad when I walk through the doors, but when I leave I’m always smiling. Each time I come I make a small improvement, so that gives me incentive to push myself the next time.
"Watching the other patients working hard also motivates me to do my best. I can’t wait to drive, walk on my own and even play basketball again.”