Health & Science

Hospital Offers "Rodeo Rehab"

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is known for its size: it’s got big crowds, big hats, and big bands. But for a group of patients from the Harris County Hospital District, the rodeo is all about the small: small steps and small but significant therapeutic moments. KUHF health science and technology reporter Carrie Feibel has this story about rodeo rehabilitation.

Patients and therapists from Quentin Mease Community Hospital work on mobility skills during a visit to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

David Pinkney is a retired truck driver.

“I’ve been in the hospital something like 3 weeks, I want to get out and get around and feel my way around again.”

A few weeks ago Pinkney had a bad fall and became partially paralyzed. He’s dealing with a lot, both physically and emotionally. So he was excited when the staff at Quentin Mease Community Hospital chose him to go on a field trip to the rodeo.

“The group went to see the pig races, the little kids at the pig races, and we got to go to some of the concession stands and eat some of this delicious food they have out here.”

It’s a fun and relaxing excursion for patients who have been traumatized by a recent accident or illness.

But it’s also good practice for returning to the real world. Recreational therapist Amy Parker says most of the patients on the field trip are almost ready to be discharged.

“It’s a big safety awareness that they’re working on, because out in the parking lot there’s a lot of speed bumps, so how you going to take your wheelchair or your walker over that speed bump, so those are the kinds of things that we’re working on. For them to make those decisions and we’re there to guide them. Because we’ve already taught them at the hospital so now it’s putting it all into action.”

Raymond Azzam is 59. He’s recovering from cancer and an infection in his right leg. He spent most of the field trip in a wheelchair, but did practice standing up in the rodeo food court.

“I’m working to get better and to get my right leg walking again.”

“Are you going to do some walking at the rodeo today?”

“I’m gonna try.”

His daughter, Mayada Bazargani, says the outing will motivate and inspire her father to keep working in rehab.

“The past year that he’s struggled with bladder cancer, it has really, his lifestyle and the quality of life has diminished for him. So this will give him a chance to see that even after the surgery, even after all the complications, he can return to a new normal. Do fun things, be out and about, it doesn’t have to stop him.”

Quentin Mease offers field trips about once a month.

Parker has taken patients to the air show and baseball games, but often they go to a nearby mall or Wal-Mart to practice shopping.

Not only are the patients working on life skills, but they are adjusting to new bodies and new social situations.

“‘Cause the whole body image has changed. They were independent out and about, and now they’re stuck in a wheelchair and people are staring at them. So it kind of helps them prepare for that. Being with a therapist that can kind of counsel them through those emotions and then when we get back to the hospital we can continue that therapy.”

Quentin Mease Hospital treats about 300 rehabilitation patients every year. About one quarter of the patients take part in the field trips before they go home.