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HSS takes young patients with physical challenges on a surfing trip

HSS takes young patients with physical challenges on a surfing trip

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Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) made a splash this week with a surfing trip for young patients. Giving new meaning to the term “patient care,” the Adaptive Sports Academy at Lerner Children’s Pavilion at HSS treated 12 patients, along with some of their siblings, to sand and surf in Long Beach, Long Island.

The Academy enables young people with cerebral palsy or another physical challenge to experience the benefits of exercise. The program’s trips and recreational experiences aim to build their self-confidence, encourage independence, and increase physical activity and mobility. The excursions are offered without cost, thanks to the generosity of donors.

Adaptive surfing and other activities are competitive or recreational sports for people with disabilities. Sometimes rules or equipment is modified to meet the needs of participants. Some are understandably nervous at first, but they almost always exceed their own expectations and have a blast.

Ranging in age from 6 to 22, many patients who signed up for surfing have cerebral palsy or another condition that affects body movement, muscle control, posture and balance. A number of the young people have had multiple surgeries by pediatric orthopedic surgeons at HSS and go there for physical therapy.

Some used a beach wheelchair to get to the water, but that didn’t stop them from climbing on the surfboard. Balancing on a surfboard while in the water would be a challenge for any beginner, but with help from their instructors, many patients experienced the thrill of a lifetime standing on the surfboard while riding a wave.

Six year-old Brooklyn McDonald was excited just talking about it. “It went great, I loved it,” she exclaimed. “I caught a lot of waves,” she added, already using surfer lingo. Her mom was thrilled to see what her daughter could accomplish. “It was awesome,” said Andrea McDonald, who has taken Brooklyn on a number of adaptive sports trips sponsored by HSS. “We try to bring her to these events because it’s almost the only opportunity she has to participate in something that’s inclusive,” she explained.

“These children are fearless, they did so well surfing,” said Bridget Assip, a pediatric physical therapist on the trip. “It benefits them because they feel free in the water. They can do things that they may have a harder time doing on land. The families and kids had a great day at the beach and so much fun in the water.”

The Adaptive Sports Academy offers a number of fun activities that benefit patients throughout the year, including horseback riding, rock climbing, tennis and basketball. Dancing with the Rockettes is on the agenda for later this year.

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