Veteran Joseph Angeles (on the center monitor) takes a VA Video Connect tai chi class. Angeles uses a wheelchair to visit the spinal cord injury gym for physical therapy at the VA San Diego Healthcare System. He had to drive an hour three times a week. Sometimes that hour stretched into three as he socialized with other Veterans. Adding the time it took him to get back home, those days were used up.
Now, every Monday and Wednesday, Angeles uses the VA Video Connect app to take a one-hour upper body movement class from the comfort of his home. The class is taught remotely by San Diego VA occupational therapist Henrietta Padilla. “I have carpal tunnel syndrome and would control everything in the car using my hands,” Angeles says. “Now that I don’t have to make these drives every week, I don’t aggravate my joints.”
Connecting with other Veterans
As he connects with Padilla, Angeles can also see and talk with other Veterans in the virtual class.
The class is meant for Veterans at all levels of fitness, says Padilla. “I give tutorials on going light and going quick. I am vigilant with each of my Veterans to make sure they are staying within pain-free limits.”
Veterans can use VA Video Connect from any device with an internet connection—desktop, smartphone, or tablet. Sessions are encrypted to ensure the privacy of the Veteran.
Using Video Connect, Veterans from as far away as Arizona can connect remotely to VA San Diego physical therapy sessions. Classes are designed to strengthen muscles, burn calories, and address health issues that are common among spinal cord injury patients.
In the near future, Padilla plans to teach remote courses on yoga and multiple sclerosis hand movement.
“Henrietta offers great support, not only in terms of therapy but also in helping me out with equipment issues,” Angeles says. “In the beginning, the program was something I just went along with, but I’ve grown to look forward to it.”
Chris Menzie is a public affairs specialist at the VA San Diego Healthcare System
Photos by Chris Menzie