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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Madonna celebrates recreation therapy month

February 24, 2020

At Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals, hundreds of patients recovering from serious injury or illness push through hours of therapy each day with a goal of getting back to their life roles. While all types of therapies involve work, Madonna’s recreational therapists (RTs) help patients get back to their hobbies and passions, integrating those joys into rehabilitation.

“Our patients get to do things that are a normal part of their lives,” said Margaret Williams, RT, a rec therapist of 33 years, 2 of which have been at Madonna’s Lincoln Campus. “They are introduced or reintroduced to activities and or ways to do activities they might have thought impossible.”

For Madonna’s rec therapists, providing patients hope that being able to continue to engage in activities after a life-changing event is one of their most important roles. The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ARTA) indicates that rec therapists are integral in helping to reduce a patient’s depression, stress and anxiety while also helping each patient to build confidence in themselves.

Rec therapy played a critical role for former Madonna patient Grace Altrock, who, as a senior in high school, had to undergo surgery for Tethered Cord Syndrome that stemmed from her spina bifida. Grace has a passion for basketball, and at the time was co-captain of the Nebraska Red Dawgs wheelchair basketball team. During her time recovering at Madonna, she worked closely with Jessie Eveland, RT, to get back on the court. By incorporating basketball into therapy, Grace was able to focus on the excitement of engaging in her favorite sport instead of the physical work she was doing to strengthen her body.

“During her inpatient rehabilitation stay, we were able to work on various skills in our sessions to get her back on the court,” Jessie said. “To see how far she has come is incredible.”

Integrating basketball into therapy helped Grace to fine-tune her talents and continue playing basketball at the collegiate level at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. In January, Jessie was able to reconnect with Grace, who traveled to Omaha to compete in a wheelchair basketball tournament.

“It was incredibly special to attend Grace’s tournament,” Jessie said. “To go from recovering in acute rehabilitation to playing basketball at the collegiate level—what a fantastic story of strength and determination.”

Grace’s story is just one of countless examples of the importance of recreation therapy in a rehabilitation setting. Whether it’s playing basketball, painting, playing board games, gardening, or any other activity, using a patient’s interests can break down barriers and enhance their independence. Those successes are what drive Madonna’s rec therapists to continue to make a difference.

“I love to be able to be creative and pick activities that can focus on each patient’s individual needs,” Margaret said. “I love seeing patients work so hard and succeed, even when it’s in a tiny way.”