STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The world's greatest athletes in London share something with the rehabilitation patients at Staten Island University Hospital, Ocean Breeze: An intense will to do their physical best.
With that Olympic spirit in mind, more than 30 patients from the hospital's rehabilitation center hosted their own ceremony this morning to ring in the summer games.
The festivities began when Elizabeth Susalia, a Westerleigh resident recovering from a recent knee replacement, carried an Olympic torch boasting construction paper flames through the fourth floor nursing unit.
"It's so nice for the staff to do this for the patients ... They're so obliging, very caring," said Mrs. Susalia.
The relay lasted about 15 minutes, with patients handing off the torch as they trickled through from the fourth floor, over the hospital's connecting bridge to the Medical Arts Pavilion and into the Rehabilitation Medicine Inpatient Gym for refreshments.
Participants sang patriotic songs like "God Bless the U.S.A" as they waved miniature flags representing some fifty countries.
Sharon Zinke, a therapeutic recreation specialist at the hospital, and Linda Spadafina, the assistant manager of rehabilitation medicine, co-organized the event. The extra exercise, they said, helps supplement the physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapy inpatients receive as they recover from surgery, amputation, strokes and brain and spinal injuries.
"Every day we put our patients through training, and it usually includes increasing functionality, range of motion, muscle strength, balance, agility, mental acuity and cognition," said Mrs. Spadafina, adding that the patients are a champions in their own right. Just as Olympians compete for gold, she said, her patients tirelessly work to heal their bodies.
But the mock Olympic ceremony isn't the only event the staff organized to lift patients' spirits and aid their therapy. Mrs. Zinke said that in the past the hospital has hosted a Hawaiian luau and Halloween "spooktaculars," with plans to hold a carnival event on Tuesday.
Therapists incorporate themed physical and cognitive activities to treat patients while also fostering an atmosphere of fun and creativity. Every Thursday, the rehabilitation center hosts a graduation ceremony for those completing inpatient therapy.
"The staff is so helpful and kind. I wouldn't choose any other place. They really care about us here," said George Rivera of Clifton. Rivera began outpatient treatment at the hospital following a spine injury in 2009.