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Physical therapists at the VCU Health N.O.W. Center are helping patients get ‘back to where they want to be’


Corbin Cash said that in June, when he was recovering from a stroke and beginning physical therapy, one of his healthcare providers told him not to be too optimistic in expecting major mobility improvements before Christmas. At the time, he could barely move around his house without assistance.

By early September, Corbin was already driving himself to physical therapy appointments.

“Coming in here and listening to the orders, it’s difficult sometimes, but it’s worth it. ”

“This place just has an air to it,” he said of the VCU Health Neuroscience, Orthopaedic and Wellness Center. “It just makes me want to do better and do more. Coming in here and listening to the orders, it’s difficult sometimes, but it’s worth it. They’ve just saved my life. I really had very little life before I got here.”

Corbin was one of several patients and therapists who shared their physical therapy stories Sept. 8 during World Physical Therapy Day at the N.O.W. Center. Mary Beth O’Reilly, Corbin’s physical therapist, said when Corbin first started coming to see her he could barely stand on his own. Today, he walks on a treadmill, steps over obstacles on the floor and steps on and off of a box with weight resistance around his waist.

“Corbin has been amazing,” O’Reilly said. “He’s really put in the work, and that’s been the nicest thing to see. We’ve been a good team.”


Comprehensive, interdisciplinary care

With the help of physical therapist Mary Beth O’Reilly, Corbin Cash plays catch with a physical therapy assistant while walking side-to-side.

The N.O.W. Center, a five-story building that opened in 2016 just outside Short Pump Town Center in Henrico County, includes 111,000 square feet of space, more than 80 exam rooms and plenty of parking.

Patients at the N.O.W. Center see specialists in neurology, neurosurgery, orthopaedics, rheumatology, sports medicine, endocrinology, physical medicine and rehabilitation and behavioral health. Patients regularly see specialists from multiple disciplines at the center. Physical therapists treat patients who battle movement disorders, who have suffered brain injuries or strokes, and people who have undergone various surgeries.

“We serve as a team,” said Stephanie Ross, a physical therapist at the N.O.W. Center. “I work closely with not only our occupational therapists and speech pathologists, but with the doctors. We have open communication with all disciplines so we can better serve our patients. That open communication keeps patients safe and improves our ability to treat them.”

The physical therapists are key members of an interdisciplinary team, said William O. McKinley, M.D., a VCU Health physician and professor in the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. McKinley’s patients go to the N.O.W. Center for physical therapy and other treatment.

“They are highly skilled experts in musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions who evaluate and maximize mobility for patients with acute or chronic impairments,” he said of the physical therapists at the N.O.W. Center.

Ross said the opportunity to maximize mobility is why she became a physical therapist — because it improves the quality of life of her patients.

“It’s been one of the best decisions of my life because I’ve seen patients go from not being able to stand or walk, to living life and being able to do what they love to do, whether it’s playing tennis or golf or playing with their grandchildren or children,” she said.


‘I love helping’

Stephanie Ross, a VCU Health N.O.W. Center physical therapist, speaks with patient Lei Robinson during a recent visit.

One of Ross’ patients, Lei Robinson, has been working with Ross for about a year. Robinson said that because she has multiple sclerosis, her progress and physical abilities vary from some of the other patients, and that Ross has introduced her to helpful new ideas in adapting to the disease.

When asked what she would tell Ross on World Physical Therapy Day, Robinson said, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m very thankful for the education that everybody has here and the interaction between my physician and the therapist.”

O’Reilly said the progress she’s seen in Corbin is the reason she went into physical therapy.

“I love helping heal people,” she said. “A lot of the folks that come here are in need of our help for the things that we take for granted every day, so it’s really nice to try to get them back to where they want to be. This environment is really nice for being able to help people achieve the goals that they have, and not just what we want them to be able to do.”

Corbin, who was told to be careful in expecting major results before Christmas, was very thankful about the goals he’s accomplished since June, from standing on his own to driving again.

“It’s far before Christmas,” he said. “And things are looking good for me.”

This story originally appeared on the MCV Foundation website. To support the N.O.W. Center and other VCU Health facilities, visit https://www.mcvfoundation.org/give.