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PTA Alumni Spotlight: Meet Abby Krahl '21

Abby Krahl poses for work photo as a PTA

Bryant & Stratton College Class of 2021 Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) alumni Abby Krahl faced numerous obstacles that could have held her back from completing her degree. With determination and support from her friends, family, and instructors, Abby proved to herself that she could do it. Abby now works as a Physical Therapist Assistant in pediatrics. As a guest blogger, Abby shares her incredible story with us.

I always knew I wanted to work in health care. My brother had a stroke when he was nineteen, and needed physical therapy for months to improve his nerve damage. Watching him from beginning to end go through this and seeing all the progress he made inspired me to go to school for a career in the physical therapy field.

My journey in the physical therapist assistant program at Bryant & Stratton College started in 2019 when I moved into the dorms at the Syracuse, New York campus and met my cohort. Members of my cohort and I soon became study buddies and friends. Early into the second week of school, I took a quiz and failed. That night my cohort created a group chat. We studied day and night, before and after class, and on the weekends. We passed every quiz and exam with A’s and our instructor asked us what our secret was. Our secret was having fun with what we were doing together.

In December while in the PTA lab, we were learning and practicing gaze stabilization (a nystagmus test) when my classmate noticed mine was positive, indicating something was wrong neurologically. I went for an MRI shortly after and the scans showed I had a Chiari Malformation (brain tissue extending into the spinal canal) which grew from 2mm to 11mm. I knew this meant I was going to need surgery as soon as possible to prevent further damage. I was heartbroken, I would have to leave my cohort and they would graduate without me in April 2021. I thought and assumed the worst. Would I even be able to return to school? Can I still do this job, physically?

The surgery I had was very intense and very painful. In the first few weeks I could not even walk without a walker. I started physical therapy to regain range of motion and strength of my neck muscles. It was difficult and very painful. Kirsten Nielsen, the program director, told me over zoom one day that my experience would help me to be a better clinician. Kirsten was right as I have already experienced times like this. After telling some of my story to a reluctant patient, she felt more at ease to work with me. That is why the most rewarding part of being a Physical Therapist Assistant for me, is watching the recovery of my patients. Knowing that I helped them get back to their life and reach their goals as I did during my recovery.

My instructors and my classmates helped me to remain successful and on track to graduate while I was recovering. In August of 2021, I finished the remediation process and finally proved to myself and to everyone that I was strong enough to return to clinical and finish this program.

I would suggest Bryant &Stratton to anyone that wants to go into the physical therapist assistant field. I have suggested the program to friends already. The classes are small, I had a few instructors that were awesome, in addition to the support on campus especially from career services, and made great friends.

Bryant & Stratton prepared me for this field from the practical exams to relevant clinicals. I am proud to be a Bryant & Stratton graduate because… I did that. I made it through an intense and accelerated program to earn a AAS degree and become a PTA working in pediatrics, a career that I love despite all the obstacles, my surgery, Covid and all!

Learn more about our PTA program at Bryant & Stratton College here!

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