Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Holds First Adapted Sports Expo

October 15, 2010

Photo of Adapted Sports atheletes playing basketball 

“This kind of event is great with the camaraderie and hanging out with guys coping with what I’m going through. It feels good to be out of breath again and get pumped up,” said Army Veteran Dillon Cannon (left) who was paralyzed by a sniper’s bullet in Iraq. Cannon played quad rugby during the Adapted Sports Expo at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.
PHOTO:  Michael A. Nichols, Media Section

HOUSTON – Yesterday, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center held an all-day exhibition of adapted sports targeting amputee, polytrauma, and spinal cord injury Veterans. The event’s goal was to show newly injured patients that life is not over just because they lose the use of their legs or arms.

”It’s important to introduce inpatients and outpatients to the wide variety of activities, sports, and leisure activities that are out there,” said Recreation Therapist Jemarques Handy. “Getting involved not only improves your physical condition, but also your mental and emotional status. I have seen Veterans who were hanging their head down, get involved, boost their self-esteem and confidence and reduce their stress levels and depression.”

The purpose of the Adapted Sports Expo was to increase leisure awareness, enhance leisure participation, and familiarize Veterans with VA resources, ultimately promoting wellness and improving quality of life. Many community organizations, such as the West Gray and Pasadena Multi-Purpose Centers, SIRE - Houston’s Therapeutic Equestrian Centers, Dive Pirates, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, also participated.

"When you get them out of the bed, and get them in the wheelchair, and you get them doing trap shooting, fishing, sky diving, scuba diving, then they realize that life has no limits," said Greg Joyce of the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

The Expo also included demonstrations of martial arts, bowling, billiards, wheelchair slalom, power soccer, wheelchair basketball, and quad rugby.

“The first year after my injury I didn’t want to do anything,” said Army Veteran Dillon Cannon who was paralyzed by a sniper’s bullet in Iraq. “I eventually decided I needed to turn it around. This kind of event is great with the camaraderie and hanging out with guys coping with what I’m going through. It feels good to be out of breath again and get pumped up.”

Therapeutic Recreation is based upon a holistic framework that allows the focus to be on all aspects of improving an individual’s health and functioning. By providing structured and unstructured therapy driven services, Therapeutic Recreation may be used for improving physical abilities, building confidence, promoting greater self reliance, development and/or enhancement of leisure skills, strengthened interpersonal skills, development and/or enhancement of leisure awareness, empowering Veterans to advocate for positive self growth and change, and enrichment and creation of a meaningful, quality of life.

The Adapted Sports Expo at the DeBakey VA was about showing military Veterans, whose bodies and lives were changed forever while serving their country, all the things they can do to live their lives to the fullest despite their disabilities.

To get involved or learn more, contact the Recreation Therapy Office at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center at 713-794-7872 or e-mail jemarques.handy@va.gov.

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