Yilu Ma, MS, MA, CMI, director, Interpreter Services

Joanna Hazell works to build muscle and regain strength during a physical therapy session with David Pirani, PT, DPT, M Ed, in the newly designed Rehab Services clinic

On an early November morning, Joanna Hazell walked into the new Rehab Services clinic on the ground floor of the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center for her physical therapy appointment, feeling preoccupied.  While inspired by the newly designed, state-of-the-art space, and even the sports silhouettes on the wall, she wasn’t sure this was going to work.

That day, Joanna came to see David Pirani, PT, DPT, M Ed, for rehabilitative treatment following her knee surgery six weeks before. After surgery, she had lost lots of muscle and strength and was still experiencing some pain. Even worse, she felt she had lost confidence in herself, convinced that she wouldn’t be able to get back on the road, running again. Looking through the frosted glass windows at the beautiful fall weather made her sad. An avid runner, she proudly ran the Falmouth Road Race last year, but the repetitive activity over the years had caused injury. Though feeling better after weeks of recuperation post-surgery, she worried that her lifelong passion had now become a distant dream.

However, once she met her physical therapist, David, a dedicated professional with more than a decade of experience and a warm-hearted approach, she made an immediate, personal connection with him.

Coming from both the inpatient and outpatient therapy worlds, and having a personal connection with the Brigham himself when his father received care at the hospital a decade ago, David understands what his patients are experiencing. “We are working with people going through their own personal crises, whether they are recovering from injuries, accidents, or chronic pain, and emotionally, they’re at their most vulnerable,” David said.

Knowing that patients often have fear and anxiety after surgery, David immediately focused on Joanna’s state of mind to help alleviate her worries. “Right away, he helped put my negative thoughts out of my head,” Joanna said. “His encouraging words helped boost my confidence.”

Joanna Hazell and David Pirani, PT, DPT, M Ed, toss an exercise ball to help Joanna regain balance and flexibility post-surgery

David saw Joanna as young and energetic, with a positive attitude, and he helped her to view herself that way. He also assessed her current physical state in relation to her goals, while giving her a glimpse of what her full potential could be with the help of physical therapy. Joanna recalled that during the evaluation, David took time to listen to her and hear her stories. For Joanna, that first session was reassuring. Her evaluation was conducted in a private, tranquil space, where she was able to open her mind and talk about her fears and goals without any distractions.

David was methodical in his assessment and devised a treatment plan with Joanna’s input. Joanna’s confidence began to return; she felt she was working with someone whom she could trust, who had a thorough understanding of her situation and could help her realize her dream of running again.

According to Reg B. Wilcox III, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, executive director of Rehabilitation Services, physical therapy is about a person’s mental state as much as it is physical. “Our professionals are sometimes cheerleaders. We inspire our patients and help them overcome their fears and anxieties.”

In the following six weeks, Joanna and David worked together in the open gym area, doing a variety of programs, while continuously measuring Joanna’s progress – and sharing a laugh here and there.

Joanna is encouraged by her progress and the fact that she is now 50 percent recovered. She is determined to attain a full recovery. “Now my confidence is fully back,” she said. “I can see the changes and results. If I can make that much progress in as many weeks, I can run again.”

Referring to how much she liked the new rehabilitation facility and her experience, Joanna added, “Physical therapy can be hard work, but seriously, I enjoy going back there, and I like seeing the results!”