Patient Spotlight

Deborah Herman

According to Gladstone resident Deborah Herman, 55, the process of bringing her daughter to Excellent Physical Therapy for a recent soccer-induced knee injury prompted her to think about her own chronic knee, hip, and back pain.

While she'd always been physically active, "I'd increased my amount of exercise over the past year and, while I was getting stronger, I was experiencing more pain too," said Deborah, who attributed the pain in her hips and knees to the aging process.  Despite the range of advice she received from different practitioners and her own pursuit of other types of exercise in an effort to address her pain, "nothing worked and everything I was doing was actually making it worse," she said.  That is, until she began working with the team at Excellent Physical Therapy this past September.

After a thorough evaluation, "Lou DiGiovine diagnosed me with ‘patellofemoral pain syndrome' (PFPS), also known as ‘runner's knee,' which was causing friction and a dull pain in the front of my knees and radiating to my hips, thighs, back, etc.," Deborah said.  Since then, "Lou, Frank LaMorte (DPT), and Staci Wojcik (DPT) have all helped work out my muscles manually, apply appropriate heat, ice, and electrical stimulation, and oversee targeted leg and knee exercises specially designed to strengthen muscles around my knees that are weak.  They really got me going in the right direction and I don't have chronic pain in my knees anymore," shared Deborah, who looks forward to resuming cardio activity and workouts on the elliptical machine soon.

"The team at Excellent Physical Therapy is so helpful, friendly, attentive to detail, and open to sharing information and answering any question you might have," said Deborah, who works out at EPT twice a week.  "They sincerely care about your wellness and have helped me tweak my workouts so that I can do more and more safely.  They've also made me custom orthotics to combat the pronation of my feet, which will further support my proper alignment," she said.

While she acknowledged that it can often be hard for people to evaluate between different providers, Deborah confirmed that a visit to Excellent Physical Therapy is an investment well made.  "If you have pain, you shouldn't necessarily assume that your body is breaking down due to age," concluded Deborah, who's happy that her routine now includes exercises for core stability, posture, and balance.  "The team at EPT is very knowledgeable and collaborative," she said, "and you'll get a lot of high-quality guidance and support for your session."  


Candie Hengemuhle

In late 2016, after Bridgewater resident Candie Hengemuhle fell and broke the humerus in her shoulder, she wasn’t sure where to turn. Hoping to be able to do physical therapy instead of surgery, “I told my doctor that I’d been to Excellent Physical Therapy for a previous minor injury and he agreed that EPT could help me rehab this major injury and possibly avoid surgery,” shared Hengemuhle, the Director of Special Services within a public school district in Somerset County. Visiting EPT at least three times a week for several months, “the hands-on work was difficult, but it was worth every minute and I did avoid surgery,” she said of achieving her ultimate goal. “Today, my shoulder is totally functional – I can do everything I need to and am getting back to many of the exercise routines I enjoyed before the injury.”

Currently back at EPT to address lower back issues associated with the shoulder injury, “I’ve seen a big difference and definite improvement so far,” she said of the stretching and strengthening exercises and hands-on work she’s undergone.

Working primarily with EPT’s Ashley Treich, PTA, as well as Frank LaMorte, DPT, Cheryl Arnold, MSPT, and Staci Wojcik, DPT, “Excellent Physical Therapy really lives up to its name – they take a very individualized approach to everyone and really listen to you and adjust to what you need, even on a weekly or daily basis,” she said. “Their team is highly qualified and accommodating and I love that the practice has individual rooms available, which make for comfortable and relaxing sessions. I’m also vigilant about doing the dynamic stretching exercises they recommended I practice on my own, which has really helped to accelerate my recovery.”

“Candie is such a persistent, consistent person who wants to get better and she’s made great progress and was successfully able to avoid surgery on her shoulder,” agreed EPT’s Treich, who said she’s proud of her star patient. “She works hard at her exercises, takes our guidance, and has benefitted as a result.”

Looking forward to working yoga classes into her schedule soon, Hengemuhle is grateful for the support EPT continues to provide. “The team at Excellent Physical Therapy offers high quality treatment and they’re truly like family,” she said.


Jake Stagman

Two years ago, Chester resident Jake Stagman was an up-and-coming college pitcher with Major League dreams when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow while pitching in a summer league in Florida. Facing a potentially career-ending injury, he opted for special reconstructive surgery to repair the ligament (a procedure often known as ‘Tommy John surgery’ in honor of the renowned 1970s Yankees pitcher who helped make the procedure famous) and restore his career. But all didn’t go as planned.

“I had the procedure in August 2016 and was committed to Marist College in New York, a Division 1 school, but I didn’t get the proper surgery/rehab treatment and needed a second surgery,” the now 20-year-old shared of his ordeal.

Following the second surgery he underwent in August 2017, Jake was recommended to go to Excellent Physical Therapy by a friend and started up with them last summer. “They were very conveniently located to me and I started working with Lou and his team on range-of-motion and strengthening exercises, then on building muscle groups around the elbow and shoulder, and finally on a throwing program to help me get back to my sport,” said Jake, who went to EPT three times a week for the first 5-6 months and will continue training there 1-2 times a week through the summer. “The Major Leagues have always been a dream of mine, but for right now I just hope to play for a great college team again,” he said.


Caroline Casella

A junior at Bernards High School in Bernardsville, Caroline was a star soccer player and swimmer who was being considered for recruitment by several Division I colleges – until an unexpected injury threatened to derail her bright future. “In September 2017, I tore my ACL during a soccer game,” shared the 17-year-old, whose teammates helped her off the field that fateful day. “I was on crutches for three weeks and couldn’t run, jump, or pivot all winter.” Facing impending surgery and the prospect of being sidelined for months, “I was really sad,” she said.

When her doctor suggested that she might be able to swim through her injury, Caroline was initially surprised. “I could barely kick or extend and thought there was no hope for swim season,” she said, but weekly sessions with Joe Yobbi, PTA, a member of EPT’s Sports Rehab & Athletic Training Program, soon changed her mind. Under Joe’s direction, “I worked hard on stretching and strengthening exercises aimed at loosening up my calf and hamstring and soon got back to a normal level even with a torn ACL,” Caroline said. “In fact, I posted a lot of personal best times during swim season and our team made it to state championships!”

Joe can attest to his patient’s state of mind when she came to EPT last fall. “Caroline was beside herself after she tore her ACL and I knew what she was going through because I’d had injuries myself,” he shared. “We supported the strategy of keeping her in the pool because it was non-weight-bearing and also felt that it would make her stronger both going into and coming out of surgery.” Following weekly sessions focused on quad and hamstring strengthening, a safe plyometric regimen, and endurance exercises designed to build her core, “Caroline broke a personal record in the pool despite a torn ACL and her team broke a school record on one of its medley events,” Joe said. “Caroline is an extremely mature, driven, and hard-working high school athlete who never complained or gave up; she did her home exercises diligently and refused to let her setback defeat her.” As a result, he said, “her progress during her injury was amazing.”

Since finishing up swim season this March and undergoing surgery to repair her torn ACL on April 5th, Caroline has been back to EPT regularly for rehab. “I’ve gotten a lot of motion back and was definitely stronger going into my surgery thanks to EPT,” she said. “The EPT team members really got to know me and were very motivational and helped keep my spirits up,” said Caroline, who will continue her thrice-weekly rehab sessions at EPT for the next several months and feels grateful for their support and unwavering belief in her abilities and potential. “Without them,” she concluded, “I don’t think I’d have been able to swim this season – physically or mentally.”


Ken Simons

As an Army veteran and construction industry professional who’s owned home building and development companies, Ken Simons was no stranger to physical activity -- until the trajectory of his life changed forever.  “I’d always been active -- a skier, runner, and sailor -- but one day in my 50s I suddenly couldn’t move my legs as I normally had,” shared the 67-year-old Bedminster resident.  Diagnosed with Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament (OPLL), Simons underwent five surgeries over 20 years to relieve re-occurring compressions in his spinal cord, “but I’m effectively left with a permanent spinal cord injury that interrupts the connection between my brain and legs,” he said.  “I realized that I needed a way to stay active since exercise is so important.”

Ken’s quest led him to Excellent Physical Therapy, where he’s been successfully treated for over 15 years.  “What makes Excellent Physical Therapy so unique is the expertise of the staff as well as the kindness and compassion they exude,” he said.  “The treating therapists at EPT stay in the large gym with you throughout your entire treatment and all of the therapists collaborate and work together as a team, which creates a fun and truly therapeutic atmosphere.”

Ken’s pursuit to stay safely active also led to his development of the ‘Velochair,’ a personal mobility device ideal for anyone who’s challenged to be on their legs, including individuals dealing with spinal stenosis, Parkinson’s disease, MS, peripheral artery disease (PAD), stroke, and many other conditions. “The Velochair only requires one active leg and one active arm to operate and has allowed me to stay active and fully participate in life safely,” shared Ken, who recently secured a patent on his unique mobility device and will soon begin commercial sales.

“What I love most about Ken are his persistence and work ethic,” shared Kelly Papa, PTA, who’s been working with Simons three times a week for the past 4-5 years within the Gait & Balance Program that she supervises at EPT.  “He’s extremely determined to make a change and never gives up.  While he was once unable to walk, he’s now walking tall with walking sticks,” she said.  “He’s made great strides and has been an inspiration to all of us.”

“The quality of care and attention I’ve received from the therapists at EPT far surpasses that of any other facility I’ve tried,” Ken confirmed.  “EPT is a caring community and I’m much stronger, more flexible, and more stable since I started working with the excellent therapists at EPT.”


Debbie Dawson

As a busy psychologist who supervises nurses and counselors for a school district and also runs a private practice, Bedminster resident Debbie Dawson has little room in her schedule to be sidelined by injury.  Five years ago, however, she endured a dislocated patella (likely an exacerbation of sports-related injuries for which she had open knee surgeries decades ago).  Then, in 2016, she experienced loss of mobility in both shoulders as the result of a rotator cuff infection, tears, and surgery.  While she consulted with a number of physicians, it wasn’t until she saw the experts at Excellent Physical Therapy that she finally experienced the relief and improvement she’d longed for.

“After helping me to regain movement in my shoulder, the team at Excellent Physical Therapy suspected disc problems as well and recommended that I see a spine specialist, who found that I had two bulging discs in my neck that were contributing to my shoulder issues; since then, the therapists at EPT have helped me to decrease my neck pain significantly,” Dawson said.  Within her knee, “the EPT team manipulated scar and soft tissue that hadn’t healed properly and truly took the time to do that work such that by the time they finished, my knee was better than it had been in 10 years.”  Dawson also vigilantly adhered to an EPT-prescribed regimen of exercises designed to strengthen the muscles around her injuries.

  “Debbie is highly motivated, extremely diligent, and works her tail off in her rehab program and has had great results,” said EPT physical therapist Frank Lamorte of Dawson’s success.  

Going to EPT for treatment three times a week at the height of her rehab program, “I’m doing so much better that I’ve been able to taper down to just once a week and will soon be strong enough to start working on the Pilates Reformer,” shared a proud Dawson, who can’t say enough about the support she received from Frank, Ashley, and Cheryl over the years.  “The team at EPT has the expertise and does the intensive therapy that other practices don’t do,” she said.  “Their therapists care so much, are very encouraging, and they never give up on you.  EPT literally has your back – and the rest of you.”

John Pittman

Basking Ridge resident John Pittman was an avid athlete when a wintertime accident decades ago temporarily sidelined him and introduced a host of subsequent problems.  “I broke my right leg while skiing in the early 1970s and it took a long time to heal and ultimately didn’t heal properly,” explained the former AT&T/Lucent executive and current business consultant, who underwent numerous surgeries and procedures beginning in 1997.  “Though I continued to be active during that time, I ultimately contracted other related issues, including knee problems, arthritis in my ankle, and the eventual need to have my ankle fused.”

However, he credits his time at Excellent Physical Therapy with getting him on the road to sustained recovery.  “I started rehabbing at Excellent Physical Therapy 20 years ago,” said the upbeat Pittman, who regularly sees the specialists there and vigilantly works out at EPT’s facility on Somerville Road for 60-75 minutes three days a week.  “It’s not simply the facility or the skill of the providers that make the difference, but the energy, heart, and attitude that they bring to their treatment and patient relationships,” he said of the success he’s experienced under their care.  “The facility is a positive, friendly environment and I consider the entire staff trusted friends as well as seasoned practitioners.  They have a great ability to take an individual approach to each patient and to do it with a sense of energy, enthusiasm, care, and skill that permeates the practice.  As a result,” Pittman concluded, “I’m happy to say that I’m in some of the best shape of my life.

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