Carol Reynolds is still getting used to what it’s like to be in a wheelchair.
The Oklahoma City resident is paralyzed from the waist down, the result of problems with her spine. A surgery attempted about 10 days ago wasn’t successful, leaving her in a wheelchair.
Reynolds has been a patient at the Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center in Oklahoma City. While she is confined to a wheelchair, Reynolds still has plenty of interests, including gardening.
She is taking part in horticulture therapy already, barely 10 days after her surgery. She has planted lettuce and basil and plans on doing more when she goes home.
“I’ve already told my husband I want some of the raised beds in our backyard so I can work on them,” Reynolds said. “The concept of container gardening is amazing. I had no idea you could put so many things in containers.”
Recreational therapy is not new. It has been around for decades, but the availability of it has increased. To that end, the Jim Thorpe Center held an expo highlighting differing pastimes available to those in search of something to do.
“In rehabilitation, the benefits are as diverse as our patients,” horticulture therapist Annie Napier said. “Background theories explain that when our brains process a nature scene, we automatically experience restorative benefits — our heartbeat, temperature and blood pressure all relax, and we leave fight-or-flight modes. Sometimes it’s the first time for them to experience something other than the hospital in weeks or months.”
Napier said most patients spend about 45 minutes per session in horticulture therapy. About seven to 10 patients participate each day.
Van Hudson has lost the use of his legs after a recent spinal surgery. He is planning to participate in horticulture therapy and has made his first pot.
“It’s something to do with my hands and take my mind off everything else,” he said. “I’ve always loved working with my hands. They could bring an old tractor or lawnmower in here and I’d work on that if I could. It’s relaxing. I really enjoyed making that flower pot.”
A sense of normalcy
Program manager Greg Horneber said the therapy provides some normalcy where it is needed.
“It’s a matter of showing them how they can do it after the disability,” he said. “It’s about providing them equipment that will allow them to pursue those lifelong interests. Just because they are experiencing something that can be devastating does not mean that they can’t learn to do things they enjoyed before, with a little help and a little practice.”
Jake McGehee can vouch for that. He lost his right hand in an oil-field accident two years ago. Before the accident, he was an avid guitar player. Today, he is still playing guitar, but with a specially designed prosthetic.
“I figured that even after the accident, I’d still play somehow,” he said. “But we had to figure it out. I never gave up. It was just a matter of pushing on to find the best way to do it. Eventually it worked out. I think I’m back to where I want to be as a guitar player.”
To learn more
For more information on recreational therapy programs offered through the Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center, call 644-5200.