Woman with two knee replacements hit with ‘COVID-like symptoms’

Clackamas County

Virtual physical therapy sessions helped her socially distance while recovering from home

OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — A Milwaukie-area woman was three weeks into recovering from her second knee replacement surgery with physical therapy when she suddenly developed “COVID-like symptoms:” 105-degree fever and severe coughing.

Paula Vanderhoof has now recovered from the illness, of which she never did receive a test. She’s also almost done completing her physical therapy from Proactive clinic in Oregon City thanks to receiving virtual rehab coaching from a therapist via video conferencing software.

Paula Vanderhoof received virtual physical therapy after her second total knee replacement surgery because she fell ill with “COVID-like” symptoms. May 01, 2020 (KOIN/Danny Peterson).

“My fear in all of this was I really felt like I was at this critical point where, if I didn’t keep up the momentum of the therapy, that I was going to lose ground,” Vanderhoof said.

“With a surgery like that, or really any surgery, if you stop the progression, it really halts the recovery process. You get stiff, you get painful, more so than normal,” said Ernie Sturzinger, Vanderhoof’s physical therapist.

To do the virtual sessions, the clinic uses Microsoft Teams, in part because clinicians are able to maintain confidentiality needs of the patients with the software, Sturzinger said.

The therapists coach the patients over video conferencing to do exercising to help with rehabilitation, like mini squats.

Ernie Sturzinger conducts a virtual physical therapy sessions via video conferencing software. May 01, 2020 (KOIN/Danny Peterson).

Though all of the Proactive clinics, of which there are 14 in Oregon and Washington, still sees some patients in person, a good amount of them are now being treated through the virtual therapy.

The virtual sessions are needed for patients with symptoms of COVID-19, those who are vulnerable populations, like the elderly, or patients who prefer that option. When patients come in, their temperatures are checked at the door and the physical therapists wear masks, gloves, and sanitize all surfaces.

Vanderhoof, who works as a clinic manager for one of the Oregon Clinic divisions, said she had to quarantine herself from both attending work and physical therapy in person, completing both from a distance. Now that her symptoms have subsided over a month ago, she’s since returned to work and physical therapy in person.

Paula Vanderhoof completes a physical therapy exercise via video conferencing software. May 01, 2020 (KOIN/Danny Peterson).

Vanderhoof said the progress she’s made with her knees wouldn’t have been possible without the virtual rehab. Now, she’s about a week away from completing the sessions.

“I think it’s a great alternative to hands-on therapy. I think we’re going to have to be looking at this going forward,” Vanderhoof said.

“Physical therapy is best served hands on, face to face. But in these situations, where we can’t, this is much better than doing nothing at all,” Sturzinger added. “Looking long term, depending on how things go, we’ll just use it as we need to and as it’s safely warranted.”

Proactive Physical Therapy clinic in Oregon City is treating some of its patients via virtual therapy sessions over video conferencing. May 1, 2020 (KOIN/Danny Peterson).

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