The Forgotten Patients in the Covid-19 Crisis: Clinician Perspective

There is no question the Covid-19 crisis has had a profound impact on every aspect of our lives. We have all been impacted in one way or another. As an organization we were forced to make some tough decisions including layoffs, limiting hours, and even temporarily closing of some facilities in the hardest hit areas. Although physical therapist are considered an essential business, that label doesn’t eliminate the fear and anxiety of close human contact during this time. Despite following CDC and state guidelines to the very letter it is impossible to eliminate all risk. There is no doubt some clinicians, including myself have had the internal battle of risk and benefit while remaining open and treating during this time. Some clinicians on social media were negatively blasting others for being open and continuing to treat during the crisis. Some clinicians feeling that physical therapy wasn’t important enough to be considered essential. Clinicians were battling in open social media forums that patients with various ailments could wait out the crisis and get care on the other end. It was interesting to see the spectrum of responses and individual responses. I firmly believe we have an obligation to care for those we can. We also have an obligation to assist our medical colleagues by using our skills to keep people from unnecessarily clogging the hospitals. It is clear that regular medical care has come to a screeching halt and the effects of that may ring for some time to come!

That battle was won for me in my mind when I was asked to come back in the clinic and help treat patients after our main office was reduced to only those needed to support the clinics that remained operational. I was lucky enough to experience first hand what it was like to be “essential”. Remaining open and available to patients in a clean and safe outpatient environment made the difference in the lives of the patients I cared for. Although I am a Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist and a Fellowship trained manual therapist, I found myself caring for a variety of patient diagnosis. I evaluated and treated debilitating discogenic radicular back pain, a multi-trauma case that was discharged from the hospital because of rehab department closure, and a severe cardiac rehabilitation case also discharged early from cardiac rehab early due to resource allocation. It was clear to me that these patients were in need of desperate help and with the hospital rehabilitation departments closed they had no where else to turn. It was that realization that removed any doubt of risk and benefit from my mind. My role in this pandemic was to care for those patients who had no where else to go. They needed in person care and I was grateful I could participate in their recovery. Below are two real patient stories about their experiences and in their own words:

….”.A huge THANK YOU! To Somersworth Physical Therapy, if it wasn’t for them being open and during these uncertain times due to COVID-19, I don’t know what I would have done. I did something that caused me to pinch or aggravate my sciatic nerve on the morning of March 27th . I could barely move. I needed help getting up from a sitting to a standing position and trying to get out of bed took me a good 15 – 20 minutes. The pain was so intense it caused me to physically cry out. I called my PCP and had my very first virtual doctor visit. She prescribed me a mild muscle relaxer and suggested physical therapy. She also assured me that Somersworth Physical Therapy was taking the necessary precaution of social distancing. That same day I heard from Somersworth Physical Therapy; by Monday morning I was in for a consultation and had a therapy plan put in place. When I arrived for my first therapy session it was obvious they were following the CDC guidelines and beyond. I’m also delighted to say that I noticed improvement within the first week. The pain subsided a great deal, I was able to get up from a sitting position on my own, getting out of bed became a lot easier, and I was off the medication. By the end of the second week, I was 90% better. I only have two more visits and feel I’ll be back to 100%. I won’t miss the pain but I will miss the therapists who are genuinely kind and empathetic. It didn’t hurt that they had a great sense of humor too”.


“Dear Dan;

…. I just wanted to take this time to thank you for keeping your doors open during these trying times. As you know December 6 I fell while scraping my car off after work, landing on my right side on a huge mound of ice.I was rushed to the hospital where they performed emergency surgery on the right side of my pelvic bone. The total damage of my fall was the pelvic fracture, broken right hip joint, and broken right humerus. So basically rendering my whole right side useless and extremely painful. After four weeks in the hospital I was transferred to Northeast Rehab Hospital for an additional four weeks. Once home I had a couple weeks of home therapy. Then sent for Aqua Therapy, where i was progressing slowly, but they closed their doors until May due to Covid-19. Luckily my counselor knew of your practice and got me into your facility. I am amazed at how fantastic and thorough your therapy methods are. In just a short amount of time I am progressing 100% more than I have with anyone else. So, thank you again for staying open to help those of us who severely need help. Because of your caring attention I’m almost ready to lose the walker for one crutch. You and everyone in your practice are the true representation of Angels of Mercy.”

God Bless Sincerely,
Elise B. Hxxxxxxxx