The colors of the leaves in Canby, Minnesota, reveal change is on the horizon, but inside the Sanford Canby Medical Center, change for patient Tammy Stauffer comes by way of one step further.
Four years ago, walking went from difficult to impossible for the 36-year-old.
“I got depressed. I didn’t walk anymore, and my legs became tighter and tighter and more compressed,” said Stauffer.
She’s describing complications from kidney failure.
“I was on dialysis, and I got a kidney transplant in 2007 that lasted till 2012. After it failed and they took it out, I’ve been getting weaker and weaker since,” she said.
Searching for physical therapy
Stauffer’s mother, Lori Medellin, has been her primary care giver for the last eight years. The two have been in and out of several physical therapy programs in the area, searching for the right program to get Stauffer back on her feet.
“Before we came here, she wasn’t really walking at all. She just kind of gave up and (said), ‘Mom, I can’t do it.’ Well now it went from ‘can’t’ to ‘I can,’” said Medellin.
Stauffer took her first steps in years with the help of a motorized walker at Sanford Canby’s rehab department.
Physical therapist Melissa Laleman says the walker helps her patients because its ability to move up and down provides more support than a regular walker does.
“There’s a forearm support. There’s support at the knees. There’s also sort of a pad that can go behind their bottom for that extra added support,” said Laleman. “I think we are pretty lucky to have something like this.”
Board member to patient to donor
If you look closely at the bottom of the walker, you’ll see the luck comes by way of a man named Larry Goodmanson.
“My father he was a man who loved life,” recalled Renee Wolf.
Wolf’s father Larry was a pharmacist and owner of a local drug store in Canby for 30 years. He was well known in town and at Sanford Canby.
“He worked with the hospital. He was on the hospital board and took great pride in everything that the community had to offer,” said Wolf.
Larry worked at his drug store alongside his wife Kathy until he couldn’t.
“Dad had Parkinson’s and he had osteoporosis, and the combination was not good,” said Wolf.
Larry quickly became well known on the patient side at Sanford Canby.
“He would fall and break something and go to therapy, and they would say, ‘You could do it, Larry.’ We used to call him the Energizer bunny. You know, he just kept going. The staff at physical therapy and occupational therapy in Canby just kept him going,” said Wolf.
When Larry passed away in August of 2017, it didn’t take his family long to figure out what to do with the money friends, family and community members donated at his memorial.
“We had no need for all of the money that people graciously gave in Dad’s name,” said Wolf. “We needed to donate that money to the physical and occupational therapy department at the Canby clinic.”
Motorized walker provides multiple supports
The generosity is giving patients like Stauffer a reason to smile again.
“I can’t wait to come to physical therapy,” said Stauffer. “(The walker) makes me more hopeful and I think it would help a lot of others also.”
Medellin has seen the physical and mental transformation the walker has made on her daughter.
“If somebody’s in Tammy’s situation, they’re in a wheelchair, and they just want to give up, don’t give up hope, because there’s always something. There’s always a way,” said Medellin.
Wolf says the walker is a great way for her father’s legacy to continue both in Canby and at Sanford Canby Medical Center.
“My dad used to say, ‘There’s always someone worse off than me. And so, there’s no time to feel sorry for yourself,’” said Wolf.
Progress and a new goal
After just four months of using the walker, Stauffer is making progress.
“First, we did like 30 or 40 feet. Then it was about like 60 or 70 feet. And now my highest was 271 (feet). And that was a really good day,” Stauffer said.
As she continues on that path, she has a new goal ahead of her.
“I’m hoping that eventually she’ll get strong enough to get a (kidney) transplant, but they want her up and walking to get a transplant,” said Medellin.
With the help of her Sanford therapy team and the generosity of a special family, Stauffer’s new goal of a new kidney comes one step further.
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