Brightening the lives of others through therapy

Published 7:18 pm Sunday, February 8, 2009

Karyn Morrison, Leigh Hopton-Jones and Jane Lucas exude attitudes of cheerful encouragement as they work with residents at Chandler Health & Rehab to rebuild skills lost from strokes, heart attacks, falls or surgeries.

“We help our patients to safely practice sitting, standing, balancing and walking,” says Hopton-Jones, as she positions a patient into a rickshaw-like device that builds triceps and upper body strength.

Nearby, 86-year old Maybell Boothe has finished her leg lefts with ankle weights attached. Assisted by her walker and Leigh holding a strap, she progresses to the kitchen area where she practices reaching for plates and cups up into the cabinet.

Boothe’s walker has an attached spray can that proclaims it to provide protection from ‘Dirty Old Man Attacks,’ which brings a chorus of laughter from around the room.

“We are a lot about just trying each day,” Karyn said. “As we retrain the weakened body parts and the patient rebuilds confidence.”

At 94, Mary Shipley, who also requires a hearing device to understand instructions, is placed in a rolling chair/walker then smiles up at Morrison “You have a sweet smile,” she beams. When secured in the device, she takes off like the Energizer Bunny!

Occasionally, the physical therapists are accompanied to work by their pets who also provide therapeutic comfort to patients who may enjoy the accepting presence of an animal.

They work under the direction of Rick Turner, whose two Lhasa Apsos, Regina and Rex, have been visiting the facility since 2002. The dogs are 8-years-old, and sometimes, at this time of year, arrive dressed in their winter sweaters and coordinating bandanas. They also fetchingly model other costumes for the resident’s enjoyment, such as Regina’s pink ballet tutu and Rex’s fireman’s outfit.

Judy Nelson, a Chandler resident who received a hip replacement last October, is one of Rex’s biggest fans. Prior to her surgery, she was mobile enough to take the dogs for walks on the grounds, but for now is contented to sit for hours with Rex on her lap.