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Relief on Wheels: OTD Alumnus Brings It Home

Oct 26, 2021
5 min Read
Adam Rawson

Imagine that your feet are so swollen that you can’t wear normal shoes anymore. Or that your joints ache because of swelling. Or that a limb — say an arm — has swollen to two or three times its natural size, so that your shoulder aches from the new weight.

Your fingers might be swollen, robbing you of the natural and easy use of your hands. Swollen feet reduce your ability to walk, or to walk at all, and make you a bystander in the lives of your children or grandchildren. No longer can you go shopping.

It’s no way to live, and Adam Rawson, OTD’16, is doing his best to make sure you don’t have to. The Creighton University graduate has established the Lymphedema Clinic in Lincoln, Nebraska, which he believes to be the first stand-alone clinic in the state treating lymphedema, a long-term condition in which excess fluid collects in tissues causing swelling. Certainly, his clinic is unique in providing mobile service to people who cannot travel, a service that proved indispensable at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and which accounted then for some 95% of Rawson’s clientele. That figure has since fallen to approximately 80% as restrictions ease and clinic visits become more feasible.

A native of Oxford, Nebraska, a village of some 800 people about 55 miles southwest of Kearney, Rawson opened his clinic in May 2020 and has since added two full-time occupational therapists and a receptionist.

“We have grown tremendously,” he says. “To my knowledge we are the first stand-alone lymphedema clinic in the state of Nebraska. You can find lymphedema therapists in other clinics, but we are the only one I know of where it is the main focus of our practice.”

Other services include fall prevention, balance and mobility, neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, post-knee-surgery movement and general aches and pains.

And he’ll come to your door — or your room — as will his colleagues.

“A lymphedema specialist is rare enough in Nebraska that most facilities don’t have one on staff,” Rawson says. “So, we drive there to provide those services. We visit retirement homes, assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, people’s homes.

“We’re really trying to grow our business in the clinic because we can serve so many more people when we don’t have to drive a half hour in between, but there will always be those people who can’t come to the clinic often enough to get the treatment they need, as well as people who live in facilities where it’s just a lot easier for us to go to them.”

Rawson enrolled in Creighton’s doctoral program in occupational therapy in August 2013 after earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Being that he was already the father of two children, Rawson commuted from Lincoln to Creighton four days a week, eventually graduating with his doctorate in 2016.

Those were trying years, but Rawson says he got by with a little help from friends and faculty.

“There was a lot on my plate,” Rawson says. “Get up each day to drive to school to take all my tests, and spend as much time with my family as I could. My class, professors and, in turn, the University were all really supportive. My instructors and classmates let me take practical exams first, so I could spend more time at home.

“At later times, several classmates watched my children so I could test or complete group work.”

The years since, he says, have proved fruitful.

“It’s coming up to five years since I graduated, and so much has happened since then,” he says.

“I write a professional development plan to keep challenging myself and to make sure I keep moving forward. I’ve been trying to set the bar high enough over a period of five years that it’s truly a challenge, but I keep meeting and exceeding the bar. It’s a good example of what you can do in five years.”

By Eugene Curtin