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Published on May 09, 2018

Chris Mish at OT

Back on the job, thanks to Gundersen Tri-County care

Getting care close to home put Chris Mish of Blair back in the driver's seat of life. The occupational therapy he received at Gundersen Tri-County Hospital and Clinics put him back on the road, back on the job, and back as a provider for his family.

Jason Waddell, DO

Jason Waddell, DO

In the early morning hours of June 23, 2017, Chris took a curve too fast, and he and his Harley Sportster went careening into the ditch. It was more than an hour before he was found by a neighbor.

"I couldn't move or feel anything—arms, legs, nothing," says Chris. "I couldn't even move my head. I just lay there and looked at the stars. And waited."

Chris was airlifted by Gundersen AIR helicopter from the crash to the emergency department at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse. It was there he met neurosurgeon Jason Waddell, DO, and tests showed that beyond Chris' injuries was an underlying degenerative spinal condition—a narrowing of the spine known as stenosis.

Dr. Waddell says the condition typically occurs in older people over time, and can lead to spinal cord damage, injuries and paralysis. But if not for the accident, says Dr. Waddell, it would likely have gone undiagnosed in a person as young as Chris, who was 43 at the time of the 2017 wreck. Dr. Waddell's operation on Chris fused his neck vertebrae with surgical metal.


Pamela Weltzien, OTR/CLT

Pamela Weltzien, OTR/CLT

After several days in the hospital, Chris was released to go home. But he was in no shape to do much else. Chris operates a ready-mix concrete truck for Western Wisconsin Trucking (WWT) in Independence. There was no way he could lift the 45-pound concrete pouring chute or drive the truck. With therapy just minutes from his home in Blair, Chris' relatives and friends could easily get him to his rehab appointments until Chris was cleared to drive.

Then Gundersen Tri-County occupational therapy in Whitehall entered his life, and for that, he is very thankful.

"I wish everyone was as nice and had that 'ah, ha' moment when they realize how lucky they are," says Pamela Weltzien, OTR/CLT, Chris' occupational therapist for two full months. "He was very motivated and everything I suggested he did 10-fold. In fact, I had to caution him not to do too much."

Chris "graduated" occupational therapy in October and went back to work full-time right before Halloween. Thanks to occupational therapy, in collaboration with his employer and his surgeon, Chris was back to safely climbing ladders, driving and lifting cement chutes with confidence.

"It was a lot easier for us not having to drive very far, and the care there was awesome," he says about the Whitehall location. "The care I received at Gundersen Tri-County put me back to work."

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