Leading the Way

Physical therapist appreciates help she received to get back on her feet

Renee Schmidt has been an athlete for a long time and works as a physical therapist. So she knows a thing or two about the human body and recovering from injury.

When Schmidt had her fifth knee surgery to repair damage caused by degenerative joint disease, she expected to be back at full strength six to eight weeks after surgery. But a complication changed her plans.

“The nerve block reached my thigh and caused my leg to swell about four times its normal size,” Schmidt explained. “When the normal anesthetic wore off, not only was I in severe pain and horribly bruised, my leg was extremely swollen.”

She expected to leave the hospital within two days of surgery, but ended up staying six nights so her doctor could monitor her. As a clinician, it was apparent to Schmidt that she wasn’t going to be back to work as quickly as she hoped.

“That was a big blow to me and my staff to learn I’d be out longer than I expected,” Schmidt said. “I also love my job and really enjoy seeing my patients, so that made being on disability leave difficult, too.”

Knowing Schmidt had a strong desire to return to work in her same occupation, her disability benefits team, including a vocational rehabilitation specialist, helped Schmidt get back to her job on a full-time basis. “I was hesitant about vocational rehabilitation because I’m a therapist, and I thought I should know what I had to do to get back,” Schmidt said.

After an ergonomic assessment, Schmidt received an automatic height-adjustable desk to allow her to sit or stand depending on how her knee felt. She was also given an ergonomic office chair and leg rest, as well as training on proper use of the equipment.

“I didn’t realize how much this equipment would help me,” she said. “It’s nice to have the option to sit or stand when I needed to or to just prop my leg up on my stool when it hurt.”

She’s also thankful for the Unum disability benefits she received over the course of her injury.

“It hurts when the income you’re used to is taken away all of a sudden,” she said. “Fortunately, we still had my husband’s income, but it was comforting to receive that disability check every month to buy groceries and pay the bills. We really didn’t have to change our lifestyle too much.”

Renee shares her story in her own words below.

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