One Family’s Experience with Physical Therapy and Recovery

Veteran healthcare industry attorney Bob Metry shares how a Physical Therapy program changed his life after undergoing open-heart surgery, and gave his late wife relief from debilitating chronic pain in her final years.

After years of working behind the scenes in the healthcare industry as an attorney, Bob Metry found his role flipped to patient. He had to undergo open-heart surgery, and that led him to a 13-week cardiac rehabilitation program as part of his recovery.

“I had physical therapists, I had sports physiologists, I had a nurse,”  he said. “And I was treated to a lot of attention and a lot of work to restore my full functionality.”

In this episode of Powering Health and Wellness with RPM Rehab, Metry discusses how this team of professionals transformed his life. He shares how Physical Therapy not only helped him recover from his surgery, but also gave his late wife, who suffered from debilitating chronic pain, some relief in her final years.

A New Normal

Despite his active and fit past as a U.S. Marine, it was Physical Therapy that brought Metry into the best shape of his life.

“Even though I thought I had been in pretty darn good physical condition when I was in the Marine Corps, I actually felt like that the rehab program left me in at least as good, if not better, overall physical condition than I had been in when I thought I was in my 21-year-old prime,” Metry said.

And, his open-heart surgery wasn’t the only time that Metry turned to Physical Therapy for help. Five years ago, a pinched sciatic nerve left him with debilitating pain. He tried steroids, epidurals, but Metry couldn’t find relief. That is – until he went back to therapy.

He did another two month stint of Physical Therapy that again radically improved his  functioning and quality of life.

“The Physical Therapists that I went to had me do two specific stretching exercises that eventually solved my problem,” Metry said. 

Those two simple exercises, repeated six times every day, finally brought him relief from his pain. He found the stretches so transformative that he will not start his day without doing them.

“Every morning in the last five years I have done those stretches,” he said. “And I have had no back pain at all. I haven’t even had a crick in the back.”

Navigating Debilitating Chronic Pain

Metry’s experience as a healthcare consumer doesn’t stop there. He also engaged with physical therapists in his search for help for his wife of 27 years, Alyssa, to find relief from debilitating chronic pain.

She suffered from degenerative disc disease in her cervical vertebrae. The disease led to multiple surgeries to try to repair the damage to her spine. 

“The more surgeries she had, the more pain she endured,” Bob said. “She went into active pain management in the late 90s, but, instead of getting better, it got progressively more painful.”

In 2010, she developed arachnoiditis – an inflammation of the spine that is virtually untreatable. 

“The way I characterize arachnoiditis is [it’s like] if you have a junction box with all of the electrical connections in your house, and you grab hold of that bunch of wires and squeeze them until they fuse and short circuit everything,” Metry said. “That’s what she went into.”

That unbearable pain eventually led Alyssa to an unintentional overdose with her pain medications. After being in intensive care and on a ventilator for three days, she had to have intensive therapy to walk and rebuild her strength.

“Every part of her body was in pain,” Metry said.

Finding Aquatic therapy

After that experience, Alyssa could no longer take opioid medications to manage the chronic pain. That left her hurting so badly that she would go into a fugue state that completely changed her personality.

One of the few things that brought her relief was warm water aquatic therapy. The Physical Therapist worked with Alyssa in the pool to relieve her pain and rebuild her strength and balance.

“At some point, the only thing that was really helping her was to be in the pool moving around,” Metry said. “The therapist literally permitted us to rent that pool by the hour two to three days a week.” 

Four years ago, Alyssa’s unbearable pain resulted in cardiac arrest. Metry said her final years were only helped by the time that she spent in Physical Therapy and in the pool. 

“Her life could have been a lot more miserable than it was – especially in the last couple years – without that warm water and the supervision of the Physical Therapist at that center” he said. “The most benefits she had in terms of quality of life were in that pool.”

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