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Dordt College News

Dordt students help professor with physical therapy

May 20, 2009

Adams and Student

Some lessons are taught in lecture halls.

The best lessons come from experience.

That has been the case for a dozen students in the physical therapy program at Dordt College, who have been providing daily physical therapy for an engineering professor injured in a car accident in February, 2008.

Dr. Charles Adams hasn’t taught a class since his accident, but last semester his classroom became the Recreation Center, where every weekday afternoon two or three students from the Pre-Physical Therapy Club met with him for an hour to guide him through exercises that would continue to improve his physical skills.

Professional physical therapists had worked with Dr. Adams until last fall, when he was informed that insurance payments would end for their services. The local therapist contacted Dordt’s Pre-Physical Therapy advisor, Craig Stiemsma, and suggested that Adams would benefit from having students continue working with him.

Thirteen students volunteered to working with Adams during spring semester, and four are continuing through the summer months. His previous therapists met with the students to suggest exercises that would help him continue to regain mobility. The students set up a program and have been conscientiously volunteering, each of them at least once a week, to help him get back his health and strength.

“I’m thrilled with how it has gone,” says Stiemsma, who set up the original schedule and got periodic e-mail reports from his students about their progress. “Both sides have been really excited about how this has worked out.”

“I learned so much through this experience, and I feel very blessed that I could be a part of this and help Dr. Adams,” says Abby Tebben, a freshman from Prinsburg, Minn. “It made me certain that I want to go into the field of physical therapy, and I have actually decided to go into geriatric therapy because I enjoyed working with Charlie so much.”

Josh De Jong, a senior from Lansing, Ill., adds, “He always has a big smile on his face, ready to get to work. He shows a real passion for wanting to get back to full health and strength. He never gives up.”

The students do a lot of balance and coordination exercises, working on strengthening muscles. “We did various exercises like lunges, riding bike, shoulder raises, and different walking exercises each day to help him improve,” says Amber Weingartner, a freshman from Arvada, CO.

“I’m glad I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Adams. I gained valuable experience, and it was a pleasure working with him and getting to know him better,” commented Adam Vander Molen, a junior from De Motte, IN. “It was good to get a feel for what I will be doing in the future for an occupation. I learned that it’s not only about trying to help regain balance, strength, and flexibility, but also establishing a relationship with whomever I work.” He added that the optimism and positive attitude exhibited by Adams encouraged the volunteer students, “and I hope that our small contribution had a positive influence on him as well.”

Reflecting on the experience, Stiemsma said this is what Dordt is all about: giving students the opportunity to help and serve others, while gaining valuable experience for their careers. “The students all felt it was a tremendous experience and seemed to enjoy being able to design their own therapy.” Students used a log to see what had been done in previous days, so they could build on that and modify the workouts to benefit Dr. Adams. Stiemsma said whenever possible, he tries to include field experiences in the training of students.

Amber Weingartner summed up the feelings of all the student volunteers in saying, “I pray that God continues to be with them [Charles and his wife, Pam] in the recovery process. We are all so thankful for the grace He has already shown them. They are a living miracle.”

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