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Brain Injury and Concussion

Gillette Physical Therapists Share Personal Stories

A Gillette physical therapists helps a patient recover movement and balance.

Gillette is one of the nation’s top providers of pediatric inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation.

The physical therapists at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare help patients reach milestones and goals every day. Whether it’s recovering from a traumatic brain injury, working on mobility or gaining strength for everyday tasks, the physical therapists at Gillette use various technologies, tests and techniques to help children reach new levels of independence.  

Gillette is one of the nation’s top providers of pediatric inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. October is National Physical Therapy Month and a time to learn more about a few members of the Gillette PT team.  

Courtney is motivated by personal experience and is a torticollis expert 

Personal experience as an injured high school athlete sparked an interested in physical therapy for Courtney Fochs, PT, DPT who works with patients at Gillette’s St. Paul location.  

“As I recovered from my own injury, I saw firsthand what a difference PTs can make on a patient’s quality of life,” Fochs says. “I wanted to make the same kind of difference for people.” 

Fochs especially enjoys working with patients who have torticollis—a congenital muscular condition that happens when a muscle on the side of a baby’s neck is shortened or tightened. Torticollis is fairly common and regular physical therapy can help improve the condition in a few weeks or months of therapy.  

Fochs says she loves working with patients diagnosed with torticollis and says “it’s fun to see how babies grow and progress over a short period of time. I enjoy being able to teach parents exercises and stretches so they can help their child at home. It’s rewarding.”  

Nancy Lovaas is a physical therapist assistant at the Gillette Maple Grove Clinic. She enjoys pool therapy because the water gives children the ability to feel free.

Nancy Lovaas is a physical therapist assistant at the Gillette Maple Grove Clinic. She enjoys pool therapy because the water gives children the ability to feel free. 

Nancy is a cancer survivor and likes to make a splash 

Nancy Lovaas is a physical therapist assistant at the Gillette Maple Grove Clinic. She says her high school anatomy class set the foundation for her devotion to keeping the human body in its best possible condition.  

“I absolutely loved my high school anatomy class and I had a great teacher,” Nancy exclaims. “I knew I wanted to work with kids so pediatric physical therapy seemed like a good fit,” she recalls. During college Nancy faced a challenge—cancer. “Dealing with cancer made me decide to take a shorter educational route and I became a physical therapists assistant.”  

Nancy has been at Gillette for 20 years and says some of her favorite times are when she’s in the newly refurbished therapy pool at the Maple Grove Clinic. “I love being in the pool because it’s an environment that gives people the freedom to move and it creates confidence.”  

Nancy says a compilation of moments has kept her grateful to work at Gillette for the past two decades. “I’ve seen the look on a worried caregiver’s face and see the transformation as they see a child sit independently or take their first step,” Nancy says. “The physical therapy team supports caregivers on some of their hardest days. We work as a TEAM. I truly feel blessed to work with so many amazing staff at Gillette.”  

Amy is a problem solver and relationship builder 

Amy Clune, PT, DPT works with patients at Gillette’s St. Paul location and became a physical therapist so she could build lifelong relationships with her pediatric patients.  

Amy says her problem-solving skills come in handy during seating evaluations and when helping children gain gross motor skills.  

She recently worked with a patient who underwent selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery to help treat muscle spasticity caused by abnormal communication among the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. The procedure corrects spasticity by cutting the nerve rootlets in she spinal cord that are sending abnormal signals to the muscles. Gillette is one of the top providers of SDR surgery and treats patients from all over the world.  

“Prior to the SDR surgery this patient had never been able to walk without using his walker,” Amy recalls. “I worked with him in the rehab gym and he took his first steps into his mom’s arms. He was so proud of himself and looked at me and asked, ‘Did I walk good?’ His mother and I were a bit emotional and told him he did a great job!”  

Gillette physical therapist Michelle Engberg helps a patient in the rehabilitation gym.

Gillette physical therapist Michelle Engberg is one of 10 physical therapists in Minnesota trained in the Barcelona method for scoliosis specific physical therapy. (Note: photo taken before COVID-19.) 

Michelle is an athlete and a specially trained scoliosis expert 

Michelle Engberg grew up playing soccer and, as a result, battled her way through multiple knee injuries and her own post-op rehabilitation.  

“My fourth knee surgery solidified my desire to pursue my goal and become a physical therapist,” Michelle says. “I wanted to help others overcome obstacles like my therapists and trainers helped me.”  

Michelle has been helping Gillette patients for the past 10 years and her areas of expertise include spine, pain, concussion and cerebral palsy. “I am one of 10 physical therapists in Minnesota trained in the Barcelona method for scoliosis specific physical therapy,” Michelle reports.  

Michelle is also on the Gillette team of Robotic Assisted Locomotor Training (Lokomat) therapy. Locomotor training is a form of walking therapy that involves children taking steps at high speeds while their body weight is supported. The Lokomat uses robotic parts to help children move their legs during the therapy. It can be a helpful therapy tool for children who have complex conditions like cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries.  

Michelle says being a physical therapist is very rewarding. “I love being there when a child takes their first step—whether they’re 12 months old or 6 years old. I love seeing the pride on a child’s face and the joy for their parents when they walk for the first time on their own.”  

Gillette has a team of therapists trained to use special equipment like the Robotic Assisted Locomotor Training (Lokomat). The Lokomat uses robotic parts to help children move their legs during therapy.

Gillette has a team of therapists trained to use special equipment like the Robotic Assisted Locomotor Training (Lokomat).  The Lokomat uses robotic parts to help children move their legs during therapy sessions. 

Gillette PTs help children succeed

Gillette physical therapists teach children to navigate their everyday world with confidence. The goal is to help children feel as comfortable as possible at home and in the community. Gillette is one of eight U.S. pediatric inpatient rehabilitation facilities to be certified by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). We’re proud of our physical therapy team and would like the opportunity to help your child succeed.  

To make an appointment please call 651-290-8707.  

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