Diagnosed with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Becky Holmes Rybak had not seen the world from a standing position in two years when she arose recently during a physical therapy session at the Sanford Chamberlain Medical Center.
Her 11-year-old son ran the manual controls as Rybak began to rise with the aid of a device designed to give those who can’t stand the opportunity to do just that.
With what those around her describe as a distinctively positive attitude, Rybak, her husband, Mike, and their two children take their victories where they find them. In short, straightening her legs to get over the 5-foot mark definitely qualified.
“It makes you feel like a normal person,” said the 41-year-old, who was a nurse in Chamberlain for six years. “It’s really good for stretching out the hips and back and improved circulation. There are a lot of benefits to it. I really didn’t know how I was going to react that first time. I felt a little nauseous at first, so we went back down. Then we went up to a standing position. It was pretty cool.”
Rybak gets a hug
In a video of her first time standing, she gets a hug from her son as others begin to applaud. Not only was it a first for Rybak, it was also new territory for the medical center. The staff, many of whom have known Rybak from their time working together, told her they were adding a device called the EasyStand. Its purpose would be largely self-explanatory based on the name. It had been on the Sanford Chamberlain Medical Center wish-list for some time. Now the staff was bringing one in.
They went on to explain how it worked and what Rybak should expect.
“We mentioned it to Becky that we were getting it, and she thought it was a great idea,” said AnnaLynn Harmon, a physical therapy assistant at the center. “She wants to try everything she can and do everything she can. She wanted to know if she could come in and try it out — she’d be our first one.”
Representatives from EasyStand were there to help the staff learn how to use it. It was typical of Rybak to be cast in the role of a team player in that regard.
“It worked out great for us that the reps were here because they were able to troubleshoot a few things for us that will help us use it moving forward,” said Brittany Kieffer, a physical therapist at the center. “They were able to teach us about it on the day when Becky had volunteered to be our guinea pig. She was all for it from the start.”
Now others can make a stand, too
The staff foresees the EasyStand helping people who have had strokes or are dealing with neurological problems that warrant rehab. Depending on a patient’s diagnosis, the device can aid in improving bone integrity, strengthening the cardiovascular system and increasing circulation, among other things.
In this case, it gave Rybak some standing time that she enjoyed.
For someone whose upbeat nature has been a source of inspiration within this community, that’s always going to be a good place to start.
“I like to be around people,” Rybak said. “I have a great support system in my husband, my kids and my family. And this community has been very good to us. It’s small, so everyone knows everyone. We never lose faith. We stay positive one day at a time.”
Rybak, who says she misses being a nurse dearly, even had a little advice for Harmon and Kieffer after standing up for a bit.
“She told us when we got home we should hug our spouses standing up,” Kieffer said. “She told us to do it because that’s something she hadn’t been able to do. We hope to provide that experience for Becky and Mike in the near future with the help of our EasyStand.”
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