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Apr 11, 2022

PT works: Sambdman proves attitude, grit and determination are keys to getting better

The eyes, those story-telling eyes, filled with grit and determination, sparkling at the suggestion of another balance-and-strength building single-leg lunge.

With right knee bent, the secure left hand of Kristin Czuba (PT, DPT, GCS, CEEAA) at her waist and encouragement from husband Eldon – her biggest and most dedicated fan – Sue Sambdman completes the strengthening task before her.

The room at Rock Valley Physical Therapy’s Rock Island, Illinois-based clinic, erupts. Everyone knows the story.

Everyone loves a fighter. Sambdman, is in every sense of the word, a fighter.

The recovery, a long and challenging road paved with ups, downs – albeit lined with great support – is much shorter than it was when Sambdman’s medical odyssey began 16 months ago.

“It’s kind of hard to explain where we are and where we started,’’ said the ever-energetic Sambdman, known throughout for her service as the longtime hall monitor/security liaison at Rock Island High School.

To simply label Sambdman “hall monitor,’’ does not do her or the job she did, justice. She was upbeat and helpful to anyone who crossed her path, having time for every student and the keen ability to make every visitor welcome. She was the mayor of the village that is Rock Island High School.

“I have dealt with four different auto-immune issues and that’s where we stand today,’’ said Sambdman, who has – at times – had to fight just to get out of bed, has been confined to a wheelchair, been stripped of core strength and balance, lost hearing and grip strength as well as feeling in her hands. It took doctors time to figure out just what was wrong with me, but we have something we can work from.’’

Sambdman’s most recent challenge is Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), a rare neurological disorder in which there is inflammation of nerve roots and peripheral nerves and destruction of the fatty protective covering (myelin sheath) of the nerve fibers. This causes weakness, paralysis and/or impairment in motor function, especially of the arms and legs.

Czuba, ever-dedicated, has spent 14 months bettering – on many fronts – the life of Sambdman, concentrating on improving her strength, her balance and locomotor skills. Thanks to Czuba, Sambdman’s determination and an amazing support system in her husband, Eldon, life truly is better.

“Sue and her husband are amazing,’’ Czuba said. “She can stand on her own, take a few steps and is improving every day, but will tell you she has a ways to go for being where she would like. That’s just Sue being determined and willing to be the best she can be. In addition to being a hard worker, Sue proves a positive attitude can go a long way. She just doesn’t quit and has made amazing progress. I cannot say enough about how far she has come.’’

On a cold and rainy April day, Sambdman worked a variety of strength and balance exercises, stood and took steps without assistance. She even did a 360-degree turn, something that would have been impossible a year ago.

“Married 44 years,’’ Eldon Sambdman said of the journey he and his bride have shared. “She’s tough. And this has been hard on her, but she doesn’t back down and she is forever wanting to get better. You cannot keep her from physical therapy. It’s made her better and she takes each session with Kristin – who has been amazing – as a challenge. She would be nowhere without physical therapy.’’

Sue Sambdman, it must be noted, is a gifted photographer. From general landscape, to personal portraits, to wildlife, she has excelled. For years, she has operated Rock River Photography, and while things have slowed as she works to get better, one of her goals is to regain that special feeling with her camera in her hands.

“For a while, my phone was my camera,’’ Sambdman said, sharing some of her favorite spots in the Quad-Cities (Iowa/Illinois) she uses to watch and photograph bald eagles. “I believe I will get there, it’s all about holding and positioning and shooting, having the strength and grip to do that. I can work it (the camera) and shoot, but not quite as well as I want. Not yet, but I’ll get there.’’

The Sandmans have been married 44 years. She had her career in education and photography and he gave four–plus decades to aluminum/metals giant Arconic, Inc. Soon the two will be house-hunting in the Foley, Ala., area, a part of the Gulf Shores landscape the two have grown fond of.

“We are going to have to fly Kristin (Czuba) down that way twice a week to keep me on the right path,’’ Sue Sambdman said, joking only slightly before breaking into how her life has changed for the better since Rock Valley Physical Therapy has become an integral part of her life.

“It’s time for a change and we enjoy that area,’’ she added. “We are going to look at houses during our next trip. It will be good for both of us. I can’t say enough about Rock Valley and where I am. We wouldn’t be talking about making the move if it weren’t for all the good things that have come from therapy.’’

The relationship, Czuba says, is a two-way street.

“I look forward to our time,’’ Czuba says of therapy with Sambdman. “The reward is the relationship formed and the progress she has made.’’

Which is what Rock Valley Physical Therapy is about.

By: Johnny Marx, Storyteller