Gains and Losses:
Local woman sheds 101 pounds, regains mobility and confidence
Highgate Springs - Overcoming decades of debilitating lower-back and knee pain, Donna Flanders, 59, is committed to strengthening her body through therapeutic exercise and balanced nutrition. Triumphantly losing 101 pounds over the past year – she attributes her success in keeping the weight off to the support and encouragement she has received from those around her.
“If I can do this, anyone can do this,” says Flanders, a former athlete, coach, and educator. Recently diagnosed with aging-osteoarthritis, she says, “I hurt every day, but if I wasn’t working out it would be worse.”
Her pain issues began in 1980, after tearing all lower back muscles while playing high school basketball. Working through the injury, she continued athletics into college at Johnson, starting as goalie for the women’s field hockey team and starting guard for the basketball team.
Giving birth to the first of her two daughters the next year, she says her priority became ensuring her girls were taken care of. “My health didn’t matter as much as theirs did, they came first.”
Plagued by joint pain and weight gain most of her adult life, Flanders has endured five meniscus related surgeries on her knees. In 2009, she had spinal fusion surgery, using rods and screws, and three bone grafts to stabilize her lower spine.
“That surgery allowed me to move again - until a few years ago,” says Flanders. “During that time my weight fluctuated up and down, mostly up.”
Subsequently, Flanders had two total knee replacement (TKR) surgeries in 2016, the first in January and the second in May. Spiraling downward, for years she was treated with she calls a cocktail of pain-killing medications. “I could barely get out of bed,” she recalls, suffering from depression and low self-esteem.
Donna Flanders, 59, has triumphantly lost 100 pounds over the past year, through committed physical therapy, exercise, and healthy eating. Flanders has recovered from nine surgeries and says her heaviest weight was 327 pounds.
In 2018 Flanders was injured in a car accident, culminating in another spinal fusion surgery at NMC. Flanders was prescribed rehabilitative physical therapy sessions with NMC’s Physical Therapist, Crissy Sears.
“Although I’d always have pain due to my injuries, they would figure out how to help me manage it.”
Sears strategically started Flanders on aquatic therapy, exercising in the pool to take advantage of the properties of water. “The buoyancy of the water supports body weight making it easier to move, decrease pain, and improve exercise tolerance. The water also provides resistance to movements, which helps to strengthen muscles,” Sears explains.
Following a month of aquatic therapy, Flanders was transitioned to land based physical therapy.
“After prior knee surgeries, I’d never really worked the kinks out,” Flanders says about strengthening her legs for the first time through physical therapy.
“Donna was a competitor and an athlete, and injuries and pain impacted her mobility over the years. I had a gut feeling that once she started to see progress, nothing was going to stop her,” says Sears.
“Attending physical therapy twice a week, Crissy led me to start believing in myself again”
“If I can do this, anyone can do this,” says Donna Flanders, a former athlete, coach, and educator. Flanders has triumphantly lost 100 pounds over the past year – attributing her success in keeping the weight off to the support and encouragement she has received from those around her.
“Attending physical therapy twice a week, Crissy led me to start believing in myself again,” says Flanders. Feeling and seeing results for the first time, she decided to commit to the journey, joining New Beginnings Fitness in Swanton, owned by Spencer and Chrystal Hutchins.
“Between continued therapy with Crissy and with guidance from Chrystal at the gym, my body and mind started changing. The weight started coming off and the pain started to subside some,” Flanders says.
“Donna found a place where she felt comfortable exercising. The support and encouragement she received there is equally as important as any encouragement she received in physical therapy,” says Sears.
“It’s at the gym where Donna’s fitness journey flourished, and where she will continue to thrive and be healthy.”
Too often, clients reach the end of their physical therapy journey with no plan to continue, Sears says, reminding us of importance of being active and exercising on a lifelong basis.
“Donna reminded me of the success we can have if we set goals, have a plan, and have someone who believes in us,” she says. “Donna’s gains in physical mobility were amazing, and then to witness her weight loss journey was just incredible.”
Upon completing her physical therapy at NMC, Flanders had lost 61 pounds. Recently losing pound-100, she stopped by the NMC clinic to share her continued success.
“This is an amazing accomplishment and Donna deserves all the credit for her hard work, self-care and courage,” Sears offers. “Her transformation is one of the most rewarding experiences of my career, and I feel so grateful to have been a part of her journey and success.”
Overcoming decades of debilitating lower-back and knee pain, Donna Flanders, of Highgate Springs, has committed to strengthening her body through a regimen of therapeutic exercise and balanced nutrition. She has lost 100 pounds in the past year.
“I am incredibly proud of all of Donna’s hard work, her dedication, her accomplishments and the power of her positive thinking. She’s an inspiration,” Sears says.
No longer an athlete herself, Flanders coached soccer, basketball, and softball in Bakersfield for 35 years; working within the Bakersfield and Enosburg School systems for over two decades. She was inducted into the Enosburg H.S. Hall of Fame in 2019, for her contribution to local sports.
“This is definitely a lifelong journey,” Flanders says. “I do my exercises religiously and try to get to the gym five or six days a week. I know there are some things I will never be able to do again, that I have limitations.”
A grandmother now to three-year-old Maddox, she says, “he’s the reason I do this, to be around for him.” She has more energy these days and can even get down onto the floor to play with him, something she surely couldn’t have done in year’s past.
“As long as I don’t overdo it and think I’m superwoman, I will keep moving,” she says. “I don’t want to stop moving, I can’t stop. I’m afraid I won’t be able to move again if I do.” --