The Bucket List

With Deborah Sweetland

When she retired last year at 65, Deb had big plans. An avid hiker and lover of New Hampshire’s 4000 footers, she purchased an RV so she could fulfill her bucket list of trails across the U.S. But this last winter, just a few adventures later with a challenging Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike planned for the Spring, she injured her knee…

“I was having a nice snowshoe and you know, up here in New Hampshire, you do the postholing. You go right down through. It really hurt. When I couldn’t walk on it, I went in and had it evaluated. And sure enough, torn meniscus. It was a bummer. I’m never usually immobile. Always go, go, go. I was really depressed and worried I’d never hike again… I’m an occupational therapist though, so I know how important it is to go to a professional. Nobody should do this on their own and take the chance. So once I was able to start moving again, I came here.”

“When I started rehab, I had a lot of fear. Neil [Mackenzie, PT] and Julianna [Schultheis, PT] helped me get through it all. The cool thing is that Julianna had actually done [the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim] trail and Neil had done the hikes in the Mighty 5 before [that I did last year]. They didn’t over promise. They knew how to go far enough so I felt like I was progressing each time, but not too far. They were just confident in what I could do and that really helped.”

“I was able to put a lot of trust in those guys and it was very rewarding. The confidence I got was huge. At one point, I was asking, “Am I going to be able to do this? Am I going to be able to hike down?” Towards the end of the therapy, Neil said, “Deb, you have the strength. You have the strength.” So that I knew. I had worked up the strength. It was just down to, was my knee going to cooperate or not on the trail?”

At the beginning of April, Deb hit the road for Arizona to tackle her hardest challenge yet… “It was tough. It really pushed me. 8 miles, down 5000 feet, 8 ½ hours, spending the night… hiking back up was hard. It was really hard, but I made it back, you know? …And it was stunning. Just stunning.”

“I’m getting older. I know that I may have some residual issues with my knee and my body. The great thing is, as a therapist, I know that we’re all going to adapt to whatever we have and we’re going to keep going… I’m just going to take it one hike at a time. I can always come back to you guys, right?”

“We’re all going to adapt to whatever we have and we’re going to keep going.”

As for what’s next? Deb has two big hikes in Glacier National Park planned for this fall.

Meet the Cioffredi & Associates Physical Therapy Team:

Our Team

Learn more about Cioffredi & Associates Orthopedic Services:

Orthopedic Physical Therapy

This article first appeared in the May 2024 Cioffredi & Associates Newsletter:

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