RANCHO MIRAGE – Lee Chikafsky struggles to get to his walker. His severe rheumatoid arthritis gives him almost constant pain. He says his only freedom of movement comes from the therapeutic pool at Eisenhower Medical Center.
“My doctor explained…you’re only 10 percent your body weight when you’re in that pool. When that happens — with my spine, the way it is–it’s like walking on the moon. I have no pain,” says Chikafsky.
The problem is the pool is shutting down. The hospital’s outpatient surgery center services more people than the pool and it is out of room. So expansion plans mean the therapy pool is being replaced by medical labs.
Richard Quigley lost most of the muscle in his legs from a coma. He credits the pool at Eisenhower with keeping him out of a wheelchair.
“I don’t know why Eisenhower is pulling out of the community. There are so much to the community. There’s a lot of space in that facility, I’m sure, that can move to rather than taking away this much needed exercise for us,” says Quigley.
Eisenhower’s therapy supervisor says he’s doing everything he can to tell his patients they are not being abandoned.
“There are actuallythree other pools in the area that offer physical therapy in the pool by licensed physical therapists. There are 15 pools in the area that offer classes sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation,” explains therapy supervisor Jim Reed.
But for Chikafsky, the pool at Eisenhower is simply the best for him and he doesn’t know if other pools will offer the same level of care.
“This pool is supervised by physical therapists. Medical health care specialists. This pool is heated to a temperature which is conducive for people with arthritis.”
Eisenhower Medical Center’s list of local therapy pools can be found at http://rehab.emc.org/downloads/CommunityPoolResources.pdf.