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SIUH's "Olympic" Ceremony Honors Physical Therapy Patients' Strength

08/14/2012 12:01 AM

By: Amanda Farinacci

In the spirit of the Olympics, Staten Island University Hospital is hosting its own medal ceremony for patients undergoing physical therapy, to celebrate the mental strength needed to overcome physical challenges. 

NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

Olliemae Davis-Simona suffered a terrible fall more than two years ago, leaving her unable to walk and enduring severe pain in her back, neck and legs.

After cervical spine surgery to repair her injuries, she began the long road of physical therapy, first as an inpatient and now, coming three times a week to the outpatient rehabilitation center at Staten Island University Hospital in Ocean Breeze.

She recently took home a gold medal in an Olympics-inspired competition at SIUH meant to make physical therapy fun.

"Sometimes you get down and stuff like that, you don't want to be bothered. But stuff like this and coming here brings up my spirit," says Davis-Simona. "There are days where I just want to come in my bed and hide."

Physical therapists say recovery is as much about inspiring and challenging the mind as well as the body.

Dr. Jeffrey Weinberg, chairman of rehabilitation medicine at the hospital, says Davis-Simona's story is not uncommon.

"A lot of patients are depressed about their disability. A lot of patients have pain which gets people depressed, and it's really a vicious circle, because pain can lead to depression and depression can lead to more pain. So you got to break that cycle," says Weinberg.

On an average day, about 60 to 70 patients are treated at the center. All of them have different treatment plans depending on their injuries, so the one thing that must be common for all of their therapists is encouraging a positive attitude.

"Every single day that she's down, I have to be up. and then we'll come to a happy balance," says Linda Spadafina, an assistant manager of rehab medicine. "And we'll agree on what activity can we do today that we didn't do the other day that you'll do better at."

That is why SIUH plans the Olympics competition, and other events all year long, to inspire patients to work hard and stay positive.

Another so-called gold medalist, Bill Tobin, has had two knee replacement surgeries and says the motivation has made all the difference in his recovery.

"I'm going home with the gold," says Tobin.

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