NorCal SCI co-founder, Nick Struthers, made the 300-mile roundtrip to Fresno as part of our outreach initiatives which included stops at the Community Regional Medical Center, Resources for Independence Central Valley, and the San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital.
"My first appointment was at noon with Matthew TeNyenhuis, PT and Manager of Acute Care Rehab Services at the Community Regional Medical Center," writes Nick.
I first visited the center to present at the Leon S. Peters Support Group back in November. On my second visit there, I took the opportunity to deliver five more Care Packages to Donna Stevenson, the OT whom I met in November. Matthew was kind enough to take the time to find out more about our programs and we are excited about supporting the center in any way we can, particularly sharing our knowledge in Peer Support.
My next stop was the Resources for Independence Central Valley (RICV) which has its headquarters in Fresno. I had arranged to meet Larry Wanger who is the Executive Director. When I arrived at the center, I first introduced myself to a friendly Lucinda Bejarano, the program assistant and receptionist. Larry and his guide dog, Palmer, then greeted me and we walked over to the conference room. There, I was introduced to Frank Lizarde who is the Director of Information and Assistive Technology and Mike Mendez and Vidal Medina who are the Transportation and Independent Living Specialists. Lynn Downum-Hanzal who is the IL Specialist in Merced joined us on the conference line.
I gave the staff an introduction to NorCal SCI but my usual presentation material was not as useful as some of the staff had visual challenges. As I went over the Care Package materials, Vidal did a good job of describing some of the items as again I failed to recognize that not everyone was able to see the items I was showing. Larry gave me a good overview of the general programs and explained some of the challenges to get around in Fresno, from telephone and power poles erected in the center of many sidewalks to no sidewalks at all. Frank also informed me that the Center has a driving simulator allowing individuals to have a safe introduction or even reintroduction to driving and they are in the process of fitting the simulator with hand controls. The Center also has a 3D printer which can be used to print out those hard to source spare parts for many adaptive devices. As we chatted, I found out that Larry has run several marathons including the New York Marathon and was taking a break after running three marathons in too short a space of time.
I would like to thank Larry and all the staff for such a warm welcome and NorCal SCI is excited about working with RICV to support the SCI community there.
My final stop of the day was the San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital where I was scheduled to meet Karen Hoyt, their Chief Marketing Officer, before taking part in their monthly SCI Group Meeting. I was able to explain to Karen about our Care Packages and what programs NorCal SCI has that would benefit their patients after their stay in acute rehab.
Benilde Leal, who coordinates the group there, then dropped by to introduce herself and gave me a quick tour of the facility which included a Therapy Pool and a well-equipped therapy gym. Benilde is also a PT specializing in SCI and showed me the Woody Pack which she receives from the Woody Foundation. This organization provides tailored packs for individuals who have suffered an SCI. These packs are full of assistive devices allowing more independence in certain daily situations.
I kicked off the group meeting introducing myself and quickly realized that the individuals and family members at the meeting had a wide range of injury levels and times from injury ranging from several months to over 20 years. After my formal presentation, which I believe was mostly understood despite my strong Scottish accent, I had the opportunity to chat with the participants. As I chatted with Benilde, we both could see the value of the interaction in this friendly environment as the participants shared ideas and experiences that no medical professional would be able to provide.
I really want to thank everyone whom I met at the group for making me feel welcomed and need to recognize Benilde for her work supporting the SCI Community. There is a lot more going on in Fresno and the surrounding areas that NorCal SCI is just beginning to discover and we are excited about engaging further with the organizations and individuals to best serve the SCI community there.