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Kathy Lawler returns to one of her favorite past times, crocheting, after physical therapy at Dosher.

Before therapy, TMJ patient couldn't open her mouth; Just one success story


Kathy Lawler is uniquely qualified to discuss physical therapy services. She's had several surgeries and joint replacements over the years, and spent her career as a nurse in clinical and hospital administration.

"I see things differently than most people," Kathy says. When it's time for her to seek physical therapy, or any other treatment, she has high expectations. It was after moving to the Southport area 18 years ago that she had her first experience with Dosher Memorial Hospital's physical therapy team. The first was after rotator cuff surgery.

"I've had both shoulders worked on at different times," she says. During her recovery, she was treated by the Dosher therapists. "I found them to be very good."

Later, Kathy saw a Wilmington-based surgeon for a procedure to correct temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), a condition that affects the hinge connecting the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull.

"He wanted me to go to physical therapy in Wilmington, with people he knew and trusted," Kathy says. "I told him about my experience with Dosher and that it made more sense for me. He agreed, on the condition that her physical therapist at Dosher would get in touch with the oromaxillary surgeon.

"The therapist I was working with at Dosher really went above and beyond," she says. He called the doctor and researched her condition and therapies and knew what Kathy needed before she arrived. "When I went back to see the doctor, he was really impressed," she adds.

"Before therapy started, I couldn't open my mouth." But after jaw exercises and speech training, she was soon fully functional. "And I know that subsequently, he referred another patient to Dosher for physical therapy, too."

It was a similar experience when Kathy had her left thumb joint replaced four years ago and her right thumb last year.

"Again, the therapist was excellent, and the doctor couldn't believe how well I progressed," Kathy says. "I've had thumb therapy, hip therapy, shoulder therapy. Overall, it's been an enormous success, and every doctor I've seen has felt the same."

Through her experiences at Dosher, Kathy now feels like a part of the family.

"At this point, I know everyone on the team. They know what they are talking about. They are excellent at listening. They are responsive. They'll ask if you need a drink of water. They make the whole atmosphere quite comfortable."

While the work required of a patient isn't always pleasant, the therapists at Dosher make the experience as enjoyable as they can. "All of the therapists know all of the patients. They talk to each other. You're in good hands when you're there."

Kathy wishes more medical experiences could be like this. "A lot of health workers can take a lesson from what they're doing there," she says. "At this point, I wouldn't want to go anywhere else."

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