Notable Heroes in Health Care: Annamarie Strehlow

Physical Therapist II / Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin

When Robert Goll was Annamarie Strehlow’s physical therapy patient, he was in bad shape following an extended hospitalization.

“I felt I could not add exercise to my routine because I was already wiped out. And at that time, I didn’t think physical therapy worked, based on some past history,” he said

Neither of these things deterred Strehlow. She met him exactly where he was, and patiently showed him that he was capable of doing much more than he thought.

“Because of my hospitalization, I would frequently panic in ‘I can’t breathe’ moments. But by starting small, giving encouragement, and showing me — using monitors — that I was OK, I improved quickly,” he said.

Just when they were making progress, COVID-19 hit and Annamarie told Goll that Froedtert Hospital wasn’t going to allow outpatient appointments for a while.

“I was very depressed at this news, not only because I knew I would physically start going downhill again, but because Annamarie was being temporarily assigned to work on the front lines with COVID patients admitted to the hospital,” he said. “Though I’m sure this was scary for her, she never let it show. She encouraged me to continue as possible at home, and gave me her number so I could call with any questions.”

Meanwhile, Strehlow dove right in to her new assignment. She was in the proning and mobility team that worked to prevent patients from being admitted to the ICU. She created innovative methods of “flipping,” which benefited her patients greatly. She saw them improve and even be discharged. They looked forward to her visits despite the hard work involved.

Goll was eventually allowed to resume seeing Strehlow to finish his treatment.

“She made me much better than I was even before my extended hospitalization,” he said.

According to Goll, Strehlow never asks her patients to do what she doesn’t do herself. She leads by example by competing in Ironman events—and beating most of her male competitors.