Get Barb's physical therapy story

Barb Dilucia is a strong woman in more ways than one. For 37 years, she worked as a registered nurse at UPMC Presbyterian, then later with the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. During her tenure, she suffered major losses when her father-in-law, father, and husband passed away within one year of each other. When she retired in 2012, Barb took over the care of her younger brother, who passed away that same year.

The stress and sorrow of these losses contributed to Barb’s weight gain, which limited her mobility and quality of life. She knew it was time to start focusing on her own health. In 2013, both her UPMC primary care doctor, Francis Solano, MD, and UPMC rheumatologist, David Helfrich, MD, recommended she see a physical therapist.

Barb went to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute outpatient rehabilitation clinic in Jefferson Hills (which has since relocated to Pleasant Hills). Here, she met Alicia Adams, DPT, physical therapist and facility director. It marked the beginning of a wonderful personal and professional relationship.

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Prioritizing Her Health

At 67 years old, the longtime West Mifflin resident considers her health one of her top priorities. It’s right up there with spending time with her loving and supportive family.

Since first working with Alicia in 2013, Barb has maintained a significant 200-pound weight loss. She also underwent two total knee replacement surgeries. Throughout this time, she has had the support of Alicia and the staff at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

Initially, Barb received treatment at UPMC three times a week. The treatment focused mainly on her knees, which were heavily affected by the degenerative joint disease osteoarthritis. Even limited exercise proved difficult for Barb because of the pain in her knees.

Alicia started Barb with light table exercises and cardio on the stationary bike. Barb then transitioned to treadmill walking until she could walk for 20 minutes at a time.

Alicia also worked with Barb on exercises aimed at helping her get in and out of low chairs. There also were stair exercises, where Barb carried weight loads to mimic carrying grocery bags.

“Understanding Barb’s complete medical history and her limitations was a significant part of Barb’s therapy,” Alicia says. “Another important part of her therapy was working with Barb to keep her motivated to achieve her goals.”

Barb has continued to see Alicia regularly for physical therapy over the intervening years.

“Alicia helped me get acclimated to using a cane. Then, she started me on the stationary bike,” says Barb. “I could only pedal for two minutes at first, but I was encouraged the whole time and was eventually able to pedal for longer periods of time.”

Comprehensive Care, Close to Home

In August 2019, Barb underwent the first of two knee replacement surgeries with UPMC Orthopaedic Surgeon Brian Hamlin, MD. After spending some time recovering with the help of her encouraging cousin Bruce and a UPMC Home Healthcare nurse, Barb transitioned back to physical therapy sessions with Alicia.

Not long after, in February 2020, Barb underwent her second knee replacement surgery. Again, she had the help of Bruce and her UPMC Home Healthcare nurse before she resumed outpatient rehab sessions with Alicia.

“By this point, we were definitely in the midst of the pandemic,” explains Barb. “Halfway through my prescribed therapy, my family sat down together and decided to talk with Alicia about me staying home.”

Alicia was ready to help Barb continue her therapy while also prioritizing Barb’s health and safety. She provided Barb with a list of exercises Barb could do at home to build and maintain her strength and balance until it was safe for Barb to return to in-person therapy sessions.

Barb misses therapy sessions with Alicia and the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute staff. But she is grateful for her good health and the support of her family.

“Thanks to Alicia, I have more independence,” says Barb. “She’s been with me through thick and thin. Not only is she my physical therapist, but I’m happy to call her my friend, too.”

In late February 2021, Alicia and her team relocated from Jefferson Hills to the Southland Shopping Center in Pleasant Hills (near UPMC Primary Care and UPMC Urgent Care). The new location offers easy access to patients in the Route 51 corridor. Search more locations online or schedule an appointment at 1-888-723-4277.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.