Recently, Seattle Children’s held a design event to begin planning the gym for cancer patients that will be part of the Building Hope expansion.
Occupational and physical therapists, along with staff from Infection Prevention and Children’s Family Resource Center, worked together to come up with ideas and designs that would benefit patients, their families and staff.
The hospital already has gyms for sports medicine and rehabilitation that serve different populations of children with injuries and developmental disabilities. Why, then, is it important to have a gym specifically for cancer patients?
“Patients on the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) Unit have weakness as a result of their cancer or as a side effect of the treatments they are going through,” says Laura Crooks, director of Rehabilitation Medicine. “This can lead to functional impairments including problems with fine and gross motor skills, endurance and overall weakness. They are not able to work out in gyms like other people; they need programs tailored to their condition, and those with compromised immune systems cannot be in shared spaces.”
Having a gym on the SCCA unit enables therapists to effectively work with cancer patients to address these issues and hopefully ultimately improve their health and better prepare them to return home.
During the design event, staff came up with many ideas to provide therapy for strengthening, functioning, endurance, balance, movement and modified rehabilitation training.
Along with larger pieces of equipment like a stationary bike, parallel bars and a treadmill, they will also incorporate smaller pieces of equipment like yoga mats, Bosu balls and medicine balls. There will be plenty of storage, lots of natural light and easy-to-clean materials to prevent the spread of germs and infection.
Ultimately, the hope is for the gym to also be available to SCCA patient families in the evenings.
Families have asked if there are ways they can stay active when they’re at the hospital with their children for long periods of time. Having this gym available to them – and close to where their children receive care – will hopefully help combat some of the physical and psychological challenges that come from these long hospital stays. The team will continue working out details like training families on equipment; safety and supervision; and infection control to keep the gym clean before the gym is opened up to use by family members.
“We all realize the benefits that even a little exercise provides and are excited to be able to offer this more fully to our cancer patients and their families when the new gym opens,” says Laura.
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