George Believed Physical Therapy Could Give Him His Life Back

October 2, 2017

George Simonson Believes in Providence Health Physical Therapy

George believed in Providence when he came to the ER.
Providence believed in George when they sent him to PT.

George Simonson in his yardGeorge Simonson left the busy life of New York to retire on four acres of land in Columbia’s Long Creek Plantation. Here he developed a passion for planting and grafting, with “300 to 400 trees on this lot including 35 varieties of Japanese maples: purple, yellow, red and green.”

Properly managing his field of dreams is physically challenging. It requires climbing to tall heights and supporting oneself in unstable positions while cutting thick off-shoots. One morning, the unstable conditions led to an accident he’ll remember forever.

“I was trying to trim one of my white oaks and my saw got stuck in the branch. I tried to yank the branch away,” said George. “Teetering on a 15 foot ladder, I leaned forward to grab the other end of the stick. The branch catapulted me through the air, and I landed on my heel.”

In fact, he had broken his heel in three different places. Too far from the house to be heard, he crawled his way back, grabbing fists of grass to pull himself forward up the property.

"Let's not do surgery."

“My wife brought me to Providence’s ER,” said George. “They said I broke the most important bone in my heel and set me up with an orthopedic surgeon.”

George was afraid he would never walk normally again. He prepared himself mentally for a complicated surgery and artificial inserts, “metal screws and all that.”

To his surprise, the surgeon looked at it and said, “Let’s not do surgery.” The surgeon suggested physical therapy instead.

“If I was in New York, I believe I would have been cut open right away,” said George. “Money first and patient care second. But Providence believed in me.”

George began attending physical therapy at the Providence Health Northeast campus, a large, new facility with top tier equipment and staff specializing in outpatient physical and occupational therapy. “I liked the fact that the physical therapy was in the same facility as the emergency department.”

George running at Physical TherapyGeorge knew physical therapy was not going to be easy.

“I went on crutches to begin with, and then a three wheeler. Then I got a boot, then a saddle, GoreTex sneaker that goes around your ankle and your heel.”

He knew from the beginning that he would have to do a lot of work, but the doctor explained that in this particular situation, the long-term effects would be better through physical therapy than surgery. “I’ve always been an active person, and I wanted to be able to get back to my old activities. So I was pretty religious about following the rules.”

“I remember my last day at physical therapy,” said George. “I said, ‘I think I can run.’ I had about 75 feet open in front of me. I ran up and back and up and back. The whole place stopped and watched and clapped.”

George had accomplished more than a run. He had recovered the life he wanted to live.

“When you retire, you have to have a reason to get up in the morning,” said George. “When I get up and see my chickens, dogs, flowers -- when I see those trees -- that’s my reason.”

George Simonson is featured in Providence Health’s #IBelieve campaign.

Interested in Outpatient Physical Therapy at Providence Health? Click here to learn more about it.