Carroll clinic helps clients with disabilities free of charge
It isn’t uncommon for people to be taught when they’re younger that you never give someone something while expecting something else in return. But Carroll University students in the Physical Therapy program have received even more than they expected in return for their service to the community.
At Carroll’s Therapeutic Abilities Clinic (TAC), located off campus on Sentry Drive, students help clients with disabilities free of charge as part of their coursework.
“The clients who come have oftentimes run out of insurance but need ongoing participation and activities to promote their functional independence,” said Dr. Vickie Ericson, Carroll lecturer and laboratory coordinator of physical therapy.
Since the TAC first started in 2008 with about a dozen clients, Ericson said, it has continued to grow—moving into the larger space on Sentry Drive—and now serving around 45 clients.
TAC sessions are set up by semester. Clients commit for at least one semester and students rotate in and out, but often times clients keep returning. One of the TAC’s regulars is 63-year-old Nick Argeroudis.
Argeroudis is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, or MS, a disease that involves the immune system eating away at the protective covering of nerves. This nerve damage results in a disruption of communication between the brain and body.
“My ultimate goal is to be able to walk without the use of an aid and there’s steps in between to get there. Will that ever happen? I hope it does. But you gotta have these goals,” Argeroudis said. He works with two students during weekly sessions. Physical Therapy students Melissa Petrick and Dan Anzelmo both work with Argeroudis, but Petrick takes the lead during Argeroudis’ sessions while Anzelmo leads with another client.
Petrick, who moved from Colorado to be a part of Carroll’s program, said it’s helpful to work with clients like Argeroudis who are well versed with their own diagnosis. “I just love being able to see his positivity. And the positivity definitely helps with me trying out new exercises, but it makes it more comfortable learning things from him,” Petrick said.
She said she got into the physical therapy field as a way to be in an active career field that helps people. “I had a pretty big background in exercise and I did a lot of sports in high school, so my athletic trainer told me I’d probably be a pretty good fit for physical therapy,” Petrick said.
Aside from the physical activities and exercises students help their clients with during each session, the TAC also helps them learn skills that will assist them out in the community.
“Every week if I have my cane and I’m opening a door, I’m using the cane and I’m using the door so I was using both of them to support me,” Argeroudis said. “Somebody will come up at least once a week and open the door. And what happens to me? Bang—right on my face. And then they try to help you up and drag your arm up—they’re just killing you,” Argeroudis said.
Some of the strategies he’s learned through the TAC include how to communicate more effectively and different ways to open the door to prevent other incidents.
Some of his physical exercises include practicing walking with his cane, strengthening his balance, trying to step onto a block, and improving spacial awareness.
Argeroudis said each of the students he’s worked with over the years have a different approach to how they want to help him. He added that being a part of the program has also caused him to study even more about his disease.
And, of course, the students and clients grow close through their hours of work together. “I love all these guys. It’s changed my life. It’s given me a lot more hope than I had prior to it,” Argeroudis said. “Wild horses couldn’t keep me away from this place.”
Argeroudis and Petrick both agree that through the TAC, both of them have been able to learn, reassure and grow with one another.
This story originally appeared in the Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, print edition of the Waukesha Freeman, and is published here with permission.