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Familiarity Helped Monsey Physical Therapist Spot Serious Medical Issue

Stanley L. Alpert talks to Shelley Karben-Goldman at Stern Physical Rehabilitation in Monsey. Photo Credit: Zachary Croce
Alpert (right) works with Karben-Goldman (left) at Stern Rehab in Monsey. Photo Credit: Zachary Croce
Alpert, Karben-Goldman, and Tzali Stern, owner and founder of Stern Physical Rehabilitation. Photo Credit: Zachary Croce

MONSEY, N.Y. - When discussing his job as a physical therapist, Stanley L. Alpert explained that the beauty of the job is working closely with people, getting to know them.

“The point is, you have to listen to people,” said Alpert, who practices at Stern Physical Rehabilitation in Monsey.

It was that familiarity that ultimately led Alpert to make a call to a doctor that helped avert serious medical complications for one of his patients.

That patient was Shelley Karben-Goldman, who had been going to Alpert for physical therapy long before Alpert joined the staff at Stern, when he had his own practice that opened 51 years ago.

Karben-Goldman began coming in just over a year ago following a knee surgery. Her balance was significantly compromised, said Tzali Stern, the firm’s owner and founder.

After a period of time Alpert grew concerned with Karben-Goldman’s progress: mainly, there wasn’t much being made. Karben-Goldman had lingering balance issues when standing up and the staff couldn’t safely take her off of her walker.

“There was something that wasn’t making sense to me,” Alpert said.

Alpert had encountered a problem similar to Karben-Goldman’s in a child around the same time.

Upon reviewing her medical history Alpert noticed Karben-Goldman’s balance issues were present for some time. So, he called her rheumatologist to discuss his concerns and suggested Karben-Goldman be referred to a neurologist for an MRI. The rheumatologist agreed.

“As a therapist, I can suggest,” Alpert said.

Karben-Goldman underwent the MRI in March but didn’t receive her results until May. When they came back, it was determined that cerebral spinal fluid was building up in her brain, inhibiting her motor skills.

A cerebral shunt needed to be inserted in order to drain the fluid. Without such a procedure the fluid would continue to build up and Karben-Goldman could eventually become bedridden, Stern said.

“There was something that wasn’t making sense to me.”

Karben-Goldman underwent the surgery about two months ago at New York University Langone Medical Center.

After the surgery she noticed an immediate improvement: she could stand up without being unsteady; her writing improved; and her vocabulary came back to her, she said. And now, she is using a straight cane instead of a walker (and is adamant that it isn’t permanent).

“Working with a straight cane versus a walker is worlds apart,” Stern said. Karben-Goldman has some rehab ahead and must undergo an annual MRI as a result.

Alpert and Karben-Goldman joke around plenty when they’re together. But Karben-Goldman was sincere when reflecting on the role Alpert played in identifying the fluid buildup.

“I don’t think I would’ve gotten to here if Stanley wasn’t my therapist, if no one had picked it out,” she said.

Stern Physical Rehabilitation offers occupational and physical therapy at their Monsey location, as well as treatment at the home of patients. For more information, click here.

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