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Feb 22, 2021

Hulshizer and Hartson: Teamwork leads to patient success

Kyle Hulshizer and Angie Hartson met by accident, but the success they have achieved as patient and therapist is anything but a fluke.

The duo were paired together at Rock Valley Physical Therapy’s PCI/29th clinic at Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Hulshizer (DPC),  a bright, energetic and compassionate sort, is a Level One Therapist at PCI/29th.

Truth is, there is no template for injuries sustained in a car accident. What sets treatment apart is the person tasked with bettering the life of the patient.

Success is enhanced greatly when the patient — like Hartson — is determined and hard-working. Combine those traits with a gifted 20-something from Grafton, Iowa, a three-sport prep standout and honor student during his days at St. Ansgar High School, and you have a combination for success. Hulshizer, modest to a fault, helped lead St. Ansgar to the 2011 Class 1A Iowa state football championship, though he would never share such an accomplishment.

“Angie came our way a couple of weeks after an accident where she was rear-ended while sitting in her car,’’ said Hulshizer, a university of Iowa graduate, who is  the poster person for outgoing and personable. “She was jolted to the side and developed hip and shoulder pain. Thankfully, all went well. Within two and a half months we discharged her.’’

Along the way, Hartson came to appreciate the time and dedication Hulshizer put into her rehabilitation.

“Kyle first saw me after my car accident,’’ she explained. “Kyle was kind and efficient in accessing my injury. His plan was gentle but challenging to help me get better.’’

While the shoulder and hip were no longer problems for Hartson, Hulshizer did notice a balance issue. She shared with him two balance-related falls she had before her car accident. Soon the two were hard at work addressing the balance issue. But no sooner had they gained traction with Hartson’s balance, that things took a twist.

While at work one day, Hartson’s right foot went “floppy.’’

“She said she heard a pop with the front of her ankle,’’ Hulshizer said of Hartson. “ She went and had it examined and discovered she had ruptured the anterior tibialis tendon.’’

The anterior tibial tendon lies on the inner-front of the ankle. The muscle and tendon work together to flex the foot upward. This condition occurs when the tendon is inflamed from overuse or traumatic ankle injury.

 Uncertainty awaited Hartson.

A meeting with her podiatrist followed. Upon further review, Hartson was told a brace — to keep her foot from dropping — might be a lifetime reality. Surgery was also a possibility.

“Angie was worried about wearing a brace the rest of her life and the thought of surgery was also weighing on her,’’ Hulshizer said. ‘She didn’t want surgery, especially after the year she had had. Thing is, I had been seeing her for 8-to-9 months and had an understanding of where she was coming from. She is such an easy person to talk with.’’

Hulshizer had an ace in his back pocket. He knew Hartson would not — for one second — shy from the work ahead and do whatever was needed to get better. Her rehabilitation would be attacked with vim, with vigor and optimism.

After several weeks in a walking boot, Hartson and Hulshizer went to work.

“We knew the ankle was going to be stiff and it was going to be weak,’’ Hulshizer said of those first rehabilitation sessions. “Angie was good with that. You take the foot out of the boot and it’s stiff and super painful. I had some worries and I know the doctors had some worries she might not be able to pick up her foot as she used to.’’

But, after several weeks of intense therapy, Hartson is knocking on 100 percent’s door. Surgery is no longer on the table. A small ankle brace is expected to come off in two weeks.

“She is really, really excited about avoiding surgery,’’ Hulshizer said of Hartson. “She is one of the hardest working patients you will come across. And I tell her that.  It’s one of the reasons she gets better. She buys in, trusts the plan, but her work ethic is amazing. She gets better because she puts in the work. Today we are in the strength path and continuing to work on her balance. She is not quite 100 percent but she will get there — where she was before.’’

Hartson says she would not be where she is — walking pain free and looking forward to a summer of traveling — if not for Hulshizer.

“Kyle is kind, willing to listen, funny and made going to therapy fun, yet pushed me to do work at home,’’ Hartson said. “He was always praising  my work. He would always watch and let me take a short break. He treated me with respect and compassion, always making sure the work was helpful not harmful. I would recommend Rock Valley to anyone who would need to get better. If there was a scale of 1-to-10 and 10 being the highest, I would give it a 12.’’

A year into his career as a physical therapist, all that is special about Rock Valley is not lost on Hulshizer.

“I was part of multiple presentations (in school) from Rock Valley,’’ said Hulshizer, an avid biker.  “My goal was to go somewhere where I would be invested in. I have found that with Rock Valley. “I was the new graduate with a lot to learn — a lot of head knowledge — but not much in real clinical experience. Knowing that Rock Valley was not about overlapping patient times and just patient-centered — and would go to great lengths to better all that I do — made me want to be part of it. I have not been disappointed. It’s a great place to work and learn.’’

And better because of people like Kyle Hulshizer.

By: Johnny Marx, Storyteller