VA San Diego Healthcare System
Telehealth for Veterans with Spinal Cord Injury
Wheelchair-bound Veteran Joseph Angeles used to drive an hour, three times a week to the San Diego VA Medical Center to exercise at the spinal-cord injury gym in the basement. What would be an hour workout sometimes stretched into three as he would socialize with other Veterans he saw frequently. Combined with the time it took him to get back, that was his daily routine.
Now it only takes him an hour with the VA Video Connect class offered through the telehealth program. Spinal Cord injury patients who live across the VA San Diego Healthcare System region and beyond in Phoenix, Prescott, and Tucson areas, can connect via webcam from their homes to participate in group therapy programs designed to strengthen muscles, burn calories, save time and reduce further issues for certain Veterans.
“I have carpal tunnel syndrome and would control everything in the car using my hands,” Angeles said. “Now that I don’t have to make these drives every week, I don’t aggravate my joints.”
Initially, Padilla treated his carpal tunnel and elbow tendonitis with gentle hand stretches and splinting mailed splint to him via telehealth. That progressed to exercise programs over a video screen from the convenience of his home. Twice a week for an hour, Joseph connects for the Upper Body Movement Program. As he connects with the instructor Henrietta Padilla, he can also see and talk with other familiar Veterans who are also part of the program. According to Padilla, the class can accommodate all levels of fitness.
“I give tutorials on going light and going quick, and I am vigilant with each of my Veterans to make sure they are staying within pain-free limits,” said Padilla.
Spinal-cord injury patients who would like to participate can receive a referral from their SCI doctor to participate in the Upper Body Movement Program, which takes place on Mondays and Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. Padilla has further planned to add classes in the future for such topics as yoga and multiple sclerosis hand movement.
“Henrietta offers great support, not only in terms of therapy but also in helping me out with equipment issues,” Angeles said. “In the beginning, the program was something I just went along with, but I’ve grown to look forward to it.”
For more information on the program or to talk about more occupational therapy options offered through telehealth, please call Henrietta at (858) 642-3861.