A three-time, 30-year breast cancer survivor, Deborah Portzer has been through a lot. But her third journey with cancer would be different than the first two. This time, it was stage 4 cancer, having spread to Deborah’s hip and leg. As a result of the cancer, Deborah broke her femur.
After an initial stay at Scottsdale Shea, Deborah came to Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. “I really love that place,” Deborah said of MVRRH.
Deborah’s two-week inpatient stay at MVRRH was like nothing she’s experienced during her 30-year battle with cancer. “They helped me in my healing of body, soul, and spirit. Just emotional, physical healing,” she noted. “When I got there from the hospital, they treated me like a queen. I couldn’t believe it. I mean every time I’ve been in a hospital they’ve never treated me like that!”
Upon completion of inpatient stay, Deborah had two choices for continuing her recovery: home health or outpatient physical therapy. She chose to continue her care at MVRRH. Deborah still had a lot of work left, and she trusted the team at Mountain Valley.
“I was there seven months to learn to walk again,” Deborah reflected. “I could only wiggle my toes, and I wanted to get better. I wanted to heal. They were wonderful. The therapists reallyjust took care of my needs–as they did for all of their patients–and I really liked that.”
Learning to walk again can be frightening. Falls always pose the threat of injury, but especially so when your health is impaired, as Deborah’s was from cancer. “I was kind of afraid because I couldn’t walk,” Deborah recalled. “I didn’t know if they were going to say ‘You have to get up. You have to walk. You have to do this.’ But they did it in a gentle way. They did it in a way that gave me the courage that I needed. The determination and the will to not only live but to get better — even with stage 4 cancer.”
As a result, Deborah has made great progress. “I’m walking now,” she noted. “I had to have a hip replacement and they replaced my femur bone with a rod, but that didn’t stop me from learning to walk.”
“My goal was to hop in my Jeep, and to go to church, and I’m doing both.”
However, Deborah wanted to continue to improve the strength in her leg and her overall safety. She read in the newspaper that there was a FallProof program at MVRRH. Though she knew nothing about it, she called the facilitator, Karen Russell. Karen, a physical therapist assistant at the hospital, came to Deborah’s house. After performing a pre-assessment test, Karen gave Deborah the wonderful news that she was a candidate for the program.
“I was so happy,” Deborah said. “Just that made me happy because, again, I could get better.”
The program lasted eight weeks, and Deborah did, again, get better. “I loved it because [Karen] was just so happy, so bubbly. Such a wonderful facilitator to our needs,” Deborah said, adding, “she cared for us in a special way.” The small class size allows Karen to give the participants her full attention. And the results were continued progress, both physically and mentally.
“In that class, not only did my get better, but I learned to have more confidence,” Deborah noted. “I was afraid that I would fall. I didn’t want to break my hip again. Today, I’m doing things that I didn’t think I could do, like get on a plane by myself. Or go up-and-down the stairs at the courthouse square.”
“All I have to say is ‘Thank you!'” Deborah added. “Thank you to Karen. Thank you to Mountain Valley. Thank you to everybody that has helped me on this journey!”
“It was the night before the Super Bowl, and I took a nasty fall. Hip fractured on both sides, pelvis fractured twice, and a cracked coccyx. So they took me to Yavapai Regional Medical Center. I was there for four or five days, and then they transferred me here to Mountain Valley. When I got here on the sixth of February, I was an unholy mess. I could hardly move for the pain. Here we are on the 22nd. I’m ready to go home.
The therapists here are nothing short of miracle workers.
They have a vocation much the same as a priest or a nun. Theirs is to help, and help they do. They get up at some ungodly hour in the morning, every single morning, to come in and help us. We’re the ones who benefit from this. In order to work with them, you show them that you want to go home. Your goal is to be able to do things here that you need to be able to do at home.
Now, I hope none of you ever winds up here, but if you ever do you need to understand that you are in the best of hands. These folks are nothing short, as I said, of miraculous. They don’t harangue you, they don’t tell you you’re not working hard, none of that. They’re the most pleasant people in the world, the most patient – talk about deep wells of patience my goodness every single one of them! I can’t say enough for the administration, for everybody here. Dr. Nambiar is a fine doctor, the nurses are all wonderful.
There isn’t one person working here who isn’t working for me and for every other patient here to get us out of here, home and on our own. We had a home visit just the other day with one of the occupational techs. Everything was found fine. I was able to do everything I need to do at home. I flopped myself into bed, I worked in the kitchen, I did everything I needed to do and it all worked out well.
I’m here probably two more days, after which I’ll be on my own once again and one happy, independent soul. I will have outpatient home healthcare. I’ll be going through their agency for that, why would I want to switch horses in the midst of a stream?
There are no superlatives of which I can think–and I love this English language of ours I’ve always loved it–but I can’t think of a superlative that really fits. These people are that good. I wish you, as I said, never have to come here. But if you do, know you’re going to get well.”