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Recreational therapy combines work, pleasure at Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center in Oklahoma City

Patients at the Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center in Oklahoma City are using recreational therapy to move beyond their disabilities.
by Matt Patterson Modified: June 24, 2014 at 12:05 pm •  Published: June 25, 2014

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.

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by Matt Patterson
Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun....
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