“My beacon of hope”

The impact of Rehab Med’s community clinics

Jenna C. Hoff - 22 June 2021

In April 2019, newly discharged from a brain injury unit where he’d spent a year recovering after a massive stroke, Chris Paliwoda was finally able to go home. But it was a bittersweet return: the rehabilitation he needed to continue his recovery would soon be out of reach.  

He was referred to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital for six additional weeks of rehabilitation, followed by private therapy, which was beyond his budget. 

Still, he had to find a way to continue treatment. “For stroke patients, physical therapy is a lifetime commitment, or we very quickly regress,” says Paliwoda, a former service manager and sales representative for Finning Canada. 

His lifesaver came in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine’s Corbett Hall Student Physical Therapy Clinic, which offers community members affordable individual and group rehabilitation services by students supervised by licensed physical therapists.  

The PT clinic not only creates a novel hands-on learning environment, but also fills a critical gap that leaves many Albertans unable to access rehabilitation because of barriers like cost. 

“[The clinic] has allowed me the opportunity to have therapy I would not normally be able to afford on a weekly basis,” says Paliwoda. “My unfortunate fall and stroke devastated my life. My only recreation and hope to walk again is the clinic.”

Paliwoda isn’t alone. Many clients have chronic neurological conditions and limited resources to access rehabilitation, while others live in assisted living homes with few opportunities to walk or exercise, says Geoff Bostick, an associate teaching professor involved with clinic programming. “Without the student clinic, many of our clients would not be able to continue to push toward improving their function and quality of life.” 

Abby Menzies, a second-year PT student who completed a placement at the clinic in early 2021, says it was rewarding to make a difference in the lives of those who experience barriers. “My clients made me want to continue to learn, grow and become a better physio,” she says. “This placement will continue to impact my treatment strategies throughout my career.” 

Two years into his time at the clinic, Paliwoda continues to make progress toward his recovery. “The supervisors and students made me feel welcome and comfortable from the very first day. They continue to be my beacon of hope.”

Across the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, programs, clinics and student placements provide a combination of rehabilitation expertise and support that impacts countless individuals in the community. 

“Without this clinic, hundreds of Edmontonians would be left without therapy and regress to long-term care facilities needlessly,” says Paliwoda. “This program … is invaluable to our community.”