Even on a cold winter’s morning, Wyleta seems ready to get in the pool. Samantha Jones, Teacher Counselor, helps her get into the lift chair and shed her outer layers of winter clothes to prepare for the soothing, warm waters in Occupational Therapist, Peggy Hendren’s, therapy pool. “She’s usually not happy getting her swim suit on, but once we get here, she’s ready to get in the water,” says Samantha.
The unique rectangular pool is covered by a Quonset-style hut made of sturdy greenhouse glass and is surrounded by a raised wooden deck. It is steamy and bright and delightful on a 35 degree day. Peggy’s plants have wintered over in the pool area and have already started to green up – a pair of bright pink flowers already blooming. Wyleta waits patiently for Peggy to get in the pool and then Samantha lowers her into the water. Peggy assists her off the lift chair and then Wyleta takes off walking through the water with Peggy following carefully behind her.
Wyleta has been using aqua therapy in some form or another for many years as a form of exercise and to maintain strength in her legs and arms. When out of the water, Wyleta does not walk independently—she either uses a wheelchair or scoots across the floor. But in the water, she gracefully walks a loop around the pool, the water providing buoyancy and resistance at the same time. Cerebral palsy and scoliosis has curved Wyleta’s spine, but with the help from the warm water and gentle movements, she can straighten her posture a bit and stretch her arms.
“The water provides relief on joints and the warm temperature helps muscles relax and stretch,” says Peggy. “It improves Wyleta’s strength, muscle tone and range of motion.” Additional benefits include protecting skin integrity and aiding upper respiratory function. “The moisture and steam are very beneficial throughout the year, not just in the winter.” Peggy provides support when needed in the water and also helps position Wyleta’s body to get the most benefit from the exercise.
Wyleta makes another pass around the pools and pauses for a bit in the center, squinting at the bright sunlight filtering into the pool area. She smiles and then gets back to walking her water circuit. Stopping for occasional breaks allows her to get through her hour-long session without getting too tired. “She lets me know with her body language when she’s getting fatigued,” says Peggy. “Wyleta’s the boss. She knows how much work she wants to do and when she’s ready to stop. She really seems to enjoy being in the water though.”
A long-time participant in the Supported Living program, Wyleta is retired from her job at ACT and enjoys listening to music, looking at magazines, relaxing on the deck of her apartment and using her wheelchair to go for walks around the neighborhood. And, of course, any chance to spend time in the water.