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Statement of Mary Ann Keckler

Spring Hill, FL (Veteran)

I am a veteran enrolled in the James A. Haley Medical Centerr since 1992. I have been both and in-patient and out patient.

I am also the VAVS REP for the DAV at this facility as well as a son this who is also enrolled in this facility as a Spinal Cord Patient. One hundred percent total permanent injured on Active duty.

As an in-patient for 3 weeks in September of 1996, in the pain management program, I have had the opportunity afforded me to deal with many aspects of therapy to help with my pain problem. The one that stood out the most, and the one that worked on the mental release of my pain was recreation therapy. All other therapies, i.e., physical, mental all just enhanced the pain, as your mind on these two are constantly on the issues of the body. Not that they were not helpful, they were. But, recreational therapy kept my mind of the problems I was dealing with.

When I went into the pain program, I was in a great deal of depression. Getting up every day was a major chore for me. I was encountering muscle spasms and living on flexeril to counter-act them. This put me in an extreme lethargic state.

While in the pain program, I was interacting with others with similar problems. Recreation therapy kept my mind off my problems. I was able to show my creative side and also had socialization with others. We not only worked with our hands, but, we went out on outings as a group. I then forgot I was suffering from chronic pain (mind over matter).

Suicide is a definite relation to depression. Pills that mask the pain, (flexeril, valium, morphine, halcyon, Demerol) can cause major depression leading to suicide, which from these I am a survivor and I could feel myself going down that path again. I then took measures to correct this effort. I am pill free since 1996, and deal with my pain in other ways.

While in the hospital I had the opportunity to clearly take hold of my problems. Recreational Therapy played a major role in this. Not only did I have an hour a day with the therapist, I also took projects back to my room to work on later on. If I had a problem at any time working on a project, a therapist was always available.

The present Chief of Recreation Therapy, Cathy Williams, was one of my therapist. She always was willing to work with me on projects. This eliminated any thoughts of my physical aspects of pain. Again, mind over matter. It beats all pain medications and helps with any thoughts of depression or suicide. This is the best medicine yet.

Not only have I been successful with it, as a volunteer I have seen this work on many occasions By the way this is why I became a volunteer, to make a difference and help other veterans.

Here is the story of another veteran. This young man has been in the hospital in the spinal cord injury center for several year. He is now in the long-term care facility in spinal cord. When I first met him. He would not speak hardly to anyone. As an amputee, he also was on pain meds. Depression had set in on him, and he was feeling sorry for himself. He was pretty well bed-ridden. The DAV had sponsored a pitcher from the Detroit Tigers thru recreation therapy. This veteran loved baseball, this was the highlight of his stay. I would then visit him on a regular basis and also spoke to recreation therapy about programs to the bedside. This was done, a smile appeared. He is now in his wheelchair all over the hospital, and he looks forward to the outings that recreation therapy sponsors. He is the first one outside waiting to be loaded into the the bus.

I am again working with another spinal cord veteran that in-deed try to commit suicide lately. He and I have had some discussions in this matter. He also is now in recreation therapy daily and has a smile on his face, as he also goes on the outings and this makes his day. Happiness goes a long way.

The present Chief of Recreation Therapy has worked very hard on programs that make a difference for out veterans, both in and out. Winter sports clinic, wheelchair games, golden age games, disability golf, horseback riding, sports venues. There is no time to feel sorry for yourself;

This has all been put together in the last few years. Three years ago I went to the past chief to put together the Winter Sports clinic program, which is sponsored by the DAV. The answer was this is Florida, people do not ski or participate in cold weather activities. My answer was that we are all mostly transients from other areas of the country and have at some time or another experienced winter sports. Under the new Chief, this is a reality and many are participating.

My son, a spinal cord patient. When he is hospitalized, his forte is computers. Recreation therapy helps set up a computer for them to use or hooks up the one they bring in. Again the outside world is available to them.

Bedside programs are available. Football pools, and they all look forward to pizza parties sponsored by organizations and run by recreation therapy. Dinners sponsored by organizations thru recreation therapy. Someone from that department needs to be on board when these are taking place and believe me we have many, ice cream socials, the list goes on and on. Without the recreation therapy department, this would not be possible. I, as a volunteer, have the opportunity to work with recreation therapy in many aspects and areas of the hospital.

They do make a major difference.

My life has taken a turn because of their efforts. As a volunteer, I also have the opportunity to go on the outings and help them. When on outings, they also have to act as a therapist and nurses assistant. Their training goes beyond just fun and games.

If it was not for recreation therapy and the staff that we have now, we (veterans) would not be able to participate in as many functions as made possible for the amount of veterans and active duty both in patients and out-patients that we presently serve.

In summary with regard to the above recreation therapy is a must along with health care, to address the medical needs of our patients on both a mental and physical aspect.

They are trained professionals in this respect and deserve to be noted as such.

Respectfully submitted.


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