By Judy Garrison

At Margaretville Memorial Hospital, Part 1*:

The physical therapy department has been located for the last 5 years in the space previously used for the cafeteria, allowing them to expand equipment, staff, and services. I was told that the new gym equipment I admired and the ceiling art were donated by the hospital auxiliary, and the Bose sound system and T.V. were given by patients.


Joe Sullivan, Sasha Cyrelson, Carly Finch & DJ Tobin of Margaretville Hospital Physical Therapy Department

I interviewed Dr. Sasha Cyrelson, Director of Rehabilitation for SECO, a private company that runs the physical therapy department at the Margaretville Hospital. (SECO also runs a rehab department at the Delaware Valley Hospital in Walton and group practices in 5 locations). Sasha, who grew up in nearby Glenford and Woodstock, added a doctorate of physical therapy from Temple University to her master’s degree in 2006 after 10 years of practice that included extensive travel throughout the country.

She explained that physical therapists, who are musculo-skeletal specialists, take a conservative approach to treatment. They are often successful in helping patients avoid surgery and drugs, or they see patients pre-op, enabling them to obtain better outcomes from their surgery. Physicians are the department’s main source of referral. (New York State has a direct access law, but to reap the benefits of insurance coverage, a prescription from your doctor to cope with pain, strain or injury is the usual route to physical therapy.) Sasha’s professional opinion is that the patient would generally benefit by being seen by a physical therapist first; if a person expresses that preference to his physician, this could be more often realized.

Sasha has a clear treatment philosophy that emphasizes hands-on techniques such as trigger point release and joint mobilization, and she will soon be adding a new certification, Mastery Certification in Manual Therapy (MCMT) to her credentials. Her motto is “physical therapists treat pain,” and she explained some of the modalities, manual techniques and exercises they have available to accomplish the goal of ending or alleviating pain, with the accompanying active participation of the patient in his ongoing care as a necessary component. Homework is always given!

They provide a full hour to the initial evaluation that includes general medical background, a history of the injury and treatment with special tests and measures. The plan that is then devised will steer treatments toward what the patient needs or wants to be able to do both at work and in their daily life. Because this specialty can offer the “luxury of time,” as she put it, patients generally experience sessions of 45 minutes to an hour on an average of 2 to 3 times a week, and up to 5 times a week. When an out-patient is discharged from the therapy department they qualify for the independent exercise program where they can use the gym equipment on their own under the general supervision of the staff for $20/month.

Because of the rural setting the department doesn’t specialize: it handles infant torticollis, sports injuries, head injuries, stroke, and geriatric conditions. A free sports injury program they initiated allows them to respond quickly to do a screening at the school when the Andes or Margaretville school calls about a student injury. The department also runs a rehabilitation program called the Swing Bed Program for Mountainside residents recovering from an illness.


* Read Part II about O’Connor’s program in next month’s Gazette