“It felt great to sweat again,” says marathon runner Suzanne Marsh. For the last five weeks, Suzanne participated in a specialty program at Magee Riverfront called Gaining Ground, along with Josh Jones and Cyndi Corcoran. All three sustained spinal injuries and have varying levels of ability as a result. They were all looking for an intense program to help progress their recovery.
Gaining Ground is like a boot camp for people with spinal cord or other neurological injuries led by Magee Locomotor Training Clinic Supervisor Elizabeth Watson, PT, DPT, NCS and Magee Riverfront Wellness Manager Ian Crosby. The program is 5 hours a day, 3 days per week for 4 to 6 weeks. Each day, participants have a one-on-one session with the physical therapist, a one-on-one session with the trainer, a group exercise session, and an hour of activity-based therapy such as electrical stimulation bike or use of one of Magee’s robotic devices for walking. Lunch is included with the program, and once a week, a speaker joins the group for lunch to discuss topics such as travel with a disability, sexuality, wheelchair sports, and nutrition. The specific topics are determined based on needs of the participants and vary with each session of Gaining Ground.
Suzanne, Josh, and Cyndi all agree the intensity of the program sets it apart from other treatments. The one-on-one time with the therapist and the trainer allowed each of them to work on their specific goals. Josh is now able to turn himself in bed at night instead of having a family member wake up to turn him every four hours. For Cyndi, who is participating in the program for the second time, improvements in her walking were the most dramatic. “I had developed bad habits to get around during the day. Liz pointed out I was moving my upper body around too much when I walk. Now I am focusing on walking correctly.”
Group sessions were also beneficial to all of the participants. Suzanne said group sessions were the most fun. “By the last week, Josh and I were able to throw the ball back and forth to each other without anyone in between us,” Cyndi says. Josh had a great time playing “baseball” with a weighted bar and a ball. In another group activity, all of the participants did exercises on the floor. For Cyndi, this activity was especially impactful. “I hate the ground. I’ve associated the ground with falling since my injury. Now I see the potential to do positive things on the ground.”
Suzanne said it was mentally beneficial to be with others who are experiencing the same challenges. For Josh, “Hands down, walking in the Ekso device was the best. I was walking over ground again. It felt great to do that.”
Participants receive a comprehensive, individualized home exercise program at the end of session to continue “gaining ground” in their recovery.
Gaining Ground is a private pay program not covered by insurance. The next session of Gaining Ground is scheduled for June 26, 2017 – July 21, 2017. If you are interested in participating or would like more information, please call 215-218-3900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.