WEST HAVERSTRAW, N.Y. -- What does a person do when they wake up following an accident and find out they are paralyzed? Or following a stroke? That's where a caring person like Eileen Andreassi, a native of Spring Valley, steps in.
"What do you do with your life when that happens," Andreassi says. "You now have 50 or 60 hours a week in your life to fill up that you didn't have before. You might be depressed or anxious. What happens when you leave the hospital?"
That's where she and those just like her, certified therapeutic recreation specialists, step in to come up with a plan to help life return to the new "normal."
Andreassi, the director of Therapeutic Recreation at Helen Hayes Hopsital in West Haverstraw, and the newly elected chairperson of the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, said she became interested in the career after watching her grandparents sitting without doing the things they loved in nursing homes.
"I work with a person to come up with a plan that will work for them, just because something terrible might have happened to them, doesn't mean their lives are over," she said. "Maybe they like to ski or garden. We can find a way to make that happen."
At Helen Hayes, Andreassi oversees a variety of therapeutic, recreational and sports offerings for patients and community members with disabling conditions. Offerings include fitness classes in a dedicated wellness program gym, as well as Ai Chi, swim lessons, and an adapted aquatic fitness program in the hospital's zero-entry warm-water therapy pool. Meditation and yoga classes are offered, as well as acupuncture, massage and Reiki sessions from licensed providers.
The hospital also boasts one of the nation's most comprehensive adapted sport and recreation programs, offering adapted sporting opportunities in softball, skiing, sailing, handcycling, golf, rock climbing, gardening, paintball and more.
"Therapeutic recreation provides that critical bridge that empowers people to regain their self-confidence, self-esteem and internal motivation. Recreational therapists help people re-claim the activities they love to do or even learn new ones with or without adaptations," Andreassi added.