Musician and athlete regains use of arm

Gail Tuffnell owes the use of her left arm to the Ready, Set, Go program at Villa Caritas. As a musician and former athlete, Gail knows physiotherapy is important to her recovery from cancer, to get her into chemotherapy and home to British Columbia with her family.

“I would have completely lost the use of this arm without the program,” says Gail. “I recommend it to other patients because we won’t regain mobility if we don’t get moving. It’s for our own good, it’s a lot of fun and we are lucky to have this."

As a complex transition unit, 3A is home to patients who have been at the hospital for a while. The unit is typically their last stop before leaving Villa Caritas. Research shows that physical activity improves overall health, especially for people with mental illness, and the Ready, Set, Go program is putting this into action.

Gail has regained the use of her arm, is soon returning to chemotherapy and is already playing the piano. She hopes to play the guitar soon.

“Mentally, the patients are better when they get to the unit. We want to get their physical wellness up and running as they will have better options for placement if they are fitter,” says Chris Rodger, Physiotherapist. Chris was assigned to the unit back in May and has been running the program ever since, with the support of therapy assistants and nursing staff.

“Many patients have lost their fitness, either because they haven’t been exercising or been outside in over a year,” says Michelle Cruickshank, Unit Manager. The mandate for 3A staff is to look at the patients' overall wellness, improve their physical fitness and help them regain independence they may have lost during their lengthy hospital stay.

Ready, Set, Go runs five days a week and is open to all patients on the unit. Typically, four to five staff members are involved with 10-15 patients. The hour-long group exercise session takes place outside in the courtyard or in the dining room, depending on the weather. Exercises include simple range of motion, warm-up, upper and lower body, sitting and standing, and are done using counting, rhythm and repetition.

The buzz about the Ready, Set, Go program is spreading throughout the facility, with many residents on other units peering through their windows down to the courtyard or even coming outside to join in. The staff hope to expand the program to other units.

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