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Physical Therapy Helps High School Para Get Back on Her Feet

Sandy Holguin Lopez is a special education paraprofessional at Great Bend High School and loves seeing the smiles on her students’ faces each day. So, when she started having debilitating back pain after a knee surgery in summer 2023, she knew she needed to take care of it.

Sandy describes herself as kind of a difficult patient when it comes to surgery and therapy. She has canceled surgeries because she was nervous and didn’t want to go through the physical therapy and healing process that was required afterward.

Following her knee surgery, the back pain she was experiencing eventually prevented

her from performing everyday activities and threatened her ability to do her job. That was when she knew it was time to overcome her fears and get some help.

One of Sandy’s daughters recommended physical therapists at The University of Kansas Health System in Great Bend. Her mobility is important to her, and while Sandy was still hesitant, she agreed to at least meet with them.

At St. Rose Medical Pavilion, Sandy met Melanie Schroeter, physical therapist, and her team: Megan Beahm, physical therapist; Brooke Churchill, physical therapy assistant; Andie Trevino, patient service representative; and Madelyn Schartz, third-year physical therapy student.

“I decided it couldn’t hurt to check it out after my daughter recommended the health system,” Sandy says. “And once I met Melanie and her team, I loved them. They made me feel welcome and at home.”

Melanie got Sandy set up on a treatment plan that would get her back to doing all the things she loved to do and help her regain her mobility. One of Sandy’s main concerns was being able to walk up and down stairs and she hadn’t been able to do that.

“We did a lot of exercises and activities that I didn’t think were possible for me to do,” Sandy says. “But Melanie gave me confidence and helped me the entire time.”

Some of the exercises Sandy received were tailored to her daily needs, such as using the step machine. Sandy has stairs in her home and had been unable to climb them. Melanie’s treatment plan also gave Sandy back her ability to feel comfortable walking and at a faster pace than she has been able to for a


“When Sandy came in for therapy for her back, her nervous system was in fight-or-flight mode and that made her muscles unable to relax,” Melanie says. “She learned techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing that allowed her nervous system to relax and was able to progress to therapy exercises. She made great progress and continues to use the tools she learned so she can stay pain-free.”

“I knew Melanie and her team were helping me,” Sandy says. “When they recommended a certain exercise during my sessions, I said, ‘Why not?’ I trust them.”

She says she is walking faster after her therapy and has virtually no back pain. Knowing that she will need surgery on her other knee in the future, Sandy trusts that she can do whatever needs to be done when it happens. She has some words of advice for others as well.

“If you are like me, who is afraid of going to physical therapy, don’t be,” Sandy says. “It really helps, especially when you work with a great team with great people. Melanie’s team is there because they want to help.”

To schedule an appointment for physical therapy at St. Rose Medical Pavilion, call 620-786-6515. To schedule an appointment for physical therapy at the health system’s orthopedics location, call 620-603-4659.


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