Air Force veteran Susan Hilern isn’t letting her struggle with arthritis impact how she enjoys her life.
Instead, Hilern is participating in the Therapeutic Recreation Clinic at the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System, where she is increasing her strength and stamina.
“Last year when I was doing Tai Chi classes for arthritis, my recreation therapist Stacy Lawton suggested I try a new type of bicycle," she said in a VA blog post.
Two types of AmTryke Tadpole Recumbent Therapeutic Tricycle enable a person to propel them using their upper body. Plus, there is the recumbent foot cycle propelled with their lower body.
“It felt like, ‘Wow, do I still know how to ride?’” said Hiler. “But with the recumbent bike, I thought ‘I love this, I can ride one of these.’”
A donation by the nonprofit service organization AMBUC has allowed more disabled veterans to ride a bicycle again while improving their mobility and independence.
Veterans who wish to be considered for a recumbent bike should request a referral from their VA primary care provider, according to the blog. The veteran is then evaluated to ensure this type of therapy would be useful for their disability.
“We have to make sure that the veteran is safe getting on and off the bike and is able to ride for a minimum of 30 minutes without an issue,” explained Lawton. “They also need to be able to safely lift the bike into and out of their vehicle.”
Recreational therapists also work with veterans to meet the requirements needed to ride the bike. This includes building stamina, losing weight, or increasing strength.
“There’s also the secondary component of improving mental clarity,” said Lawton. “Some veterans tell us cycling has really helped with their PTSD.”
“You meet other veterans who have the same interests as you and you can talk with them where maybe you can’t talk to your spouse or family sometimes because they don’t understand. You see others in therapy who are just starting and struggling. But, they see me and I tell them that I don’t let my disabilities control me.”
The goal of the program at the Oklahoma VA is to keep veterans healthy, both physically and mentally.