Patient Spotlight: Sally Slipher


How can I describe my injuries, patient-hood, and experience with PT Elite in a refreshing way?


As many athletes experience, my sport(s) of choice are more of a lifestyle and identity than a hobby or goal, and being able to run and do triathlon gives me meaning and purpose. When that is threatened or taken away by injury, it leaves us wanting to get out there even more. We think, “Who am I, if I can’t rely on my body. Who am I, if I can’t do the things that make me, me?” Nothing holds the same meaning, and everything becomes, “I wish I could be running right now.”


So, I don't really think of myself as a runner, but I do identify myself as someone that runs. The last few years left me feeling out of place; I moved across the country to Bozeman, I quit my career in neuroscience, and I am, at best, two flights from all of my family and friends. Though I had never learned what to do with mountains, in Bozeman I finally learned a little confidence in trail running, and it brought back a familiar feeling of grounding that road running had given me.


For the time, this was the only thing that made me feel like myself. With running being my only lifeline, I put a lot of pressure on it to be my sole source of joy and meaning. Always a good strategy!


This brings in a familiar archetype of developing a chronic injury, pushing through a number of setbacks, seeing multiple clinicians who give you a glimmer of hope, but never quite returning to the same fearless and pain-free athlete. Luckily, this was not entirely the case for me.


I am normally stubborn enough to avoid clinical treatment, unless an injury is acute enough to scare me, which is why I initially showed up to PT Elite. I had messed up my meniscus one weekend in a half ironman, and I had a difficult trail race the next weekend, so I need a quick bandaid to get through it. While getting my meniscus back in order, I happened to develop a case of IT band syndrome with hamstring pain. Instead of stubbornly worrying and working through it myself like I normally do, I already had a team in place to support me.


I say support, because it is obvious that Jess and Jen have expertise and knowledge to treat injuries effectively, but I find it surprisingly rare to have people treat you that also understand your journey. This is why Jess and Jen’s help was so unique and important to me.


I am not exactly an elite, high-performance athlete with a gnarly, multiple-surgery injury (those guys are much better underdogs than me), but this is something that was an obstacle for me. I also knew my IT band wouldn’t be an easy fix. I’ve commonly heard runners refer to ITBS as a sort of death sentence--pain that never goes away and forces people to stop running for good. And, I had my first ultramarathon in a few months.


It was just a 50K in Moab, with little elevation gain compared to most trails here in the Northern Rockies. But as I mentioned, I needed the challenge of this race and the training runs to feel like myself. As the race drew nearer, I had some days that my pain felt a little better, but there were always setbacks, and on one short easy run, my leg blew up, and I had to walk home.


Every time I came in to PT Elite, Jess and Jen would renew my hope. I think every time I came in, I would ask them if I would be able to race. They didn’t give a default “yes,” but they gave me an honest answer with reassurance that we would keep working. Jess always could tell what tissues were bothering me, even when I didn’t bring them up, and Jen always knew what areas needed strengthening, since she had personally been through the same obstacles. Whenever I felt silly for getting so worked up over the smallest setback, I felt like they took me seriously and were invested in my recovery. Their positivity is also such that I’ve spent more time laughing in their clinic than probably any other. They would always take on a little of the burden of the “will I come out on the other side of this,” and they had the knowledge and tools to make sure I did. And I did! I also finished my 50K smiling.