Personal service brings family back for physical therapy

After an early experience with her son receiving physical therapy at Howard County Medical Center, Whitney Hake knew exactly where to go when Sutton needed services again.

They could have gone to Grand Island. Their pediatrician mentioned Hastings, too.

“I said, ‘No, I'm going to go back to St. Paul,’” Whitney said.

“When Sutton was there as a baby, every therapist there wanted to hold him, every therapist there wanted to talk to him,” she said. “They saw past the developmental delays.”

The physical therapists at HCMC first saw Sutton at 5 months old for torticollis.

“That’s when those muscles in your neck are a little bit stiffer, and it causes you to kind of tilt your head and look one way,” physical therapist Audie Bombeck said. “It makes it difficult, honestly, to meet those milestones that you want your baby to be meeting.”

The therapists worked with Sutton for about three months.

“We worked on stretching out his neck and everything, got him crawling, got him rolling, sitting, all of that kind of stuff,” Audie said.

When Sutton was about 2, he returned to HCMC for speech and occupational therapy, as well as more physical therapy.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of items they had here or what the facility was like. It was honestly about the people,” Whitney said. “These wonderful women made him feel like the star of the show.”

“Mom had concerns about his balance and having a lot of falls. She mentioned that he was having trouble going up and down stairs,” Audie said. “So kind of those were her big goals for him.”

While physical therapists also work with adults recovering from surgery or older patients prone to falls, working with children is different.

“Sutton's really great about wanting to be active and do all kinds of different things,” Audie said, “so we kind of have to be creative in how we’re working with him.

She would start with activities such as jumping on the trampoline or animal walks and then focus on skills like balance.

“We’ve got level surfaces. We’ve got unlevel surfaces,” she said. “We’ve got our balance beam that we like to put them on.”

After seven months, Sutton’s therapists concluded that he no longer needed services.

“We’ve gotten to a point where we feel like we’ve met those goals that Mom and Dad had,” Audie said. “So he graduated from therapy. We will pick back up if parents have any concerns.”

Whitney advised other parents to trust their instincts and ask for help if they feel their children aren’t hitting the developmental milestones they should.

“Ask for that evaluation, ask for that prescription, because it can’t hurt to come and try and to see what it is,” she said. “If you, as a parent, are worried about the stigma, don't be because, if you have a good therapist, they'll tell you that there is no stigma. This is exactly what your child needs to be successful.”

Audie said physical therapists are movement experts.

“Our main role with the healthcare team is to identify, diagnose and then treat different movement conditions or movement disorders,” she said.

She enjoys seeing patients through the entire lifespan near where they live.

“We are a smaller community that is able to offer those big-city amenities,” Audie said. “We've got our clinic here in St. Paul, but we also have our clinic up in Greeley that we’re able to offer those physical therapy services for our patients just a little bit closer to home.”

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