Fort Worth, Texas,
14:44 PM

Physical Therapy Team Literally Goes The Extra Mile for Patients

By now, you may have been one of the more than 350,000 people across the country who watched the video featuring Joey Belles, a Cook Children's Hematology and Oncology patient, complete his version of a marathon last month. If not, you can still watch it here.

As he completed the 26.2 miles, Joey’s physical therapists were the loudest and proudest cheerleaders in the Medical Center’s halls.

They are also the ones who helped create and implement the Exercise is Medicine initiative, which is aimed at increasing activity for oncology patients during their hospital stays. Miles in Motion, an incentivized walking program that’s a component of Exercise is Medicine, is used as a way to motivate patients to stay active, and is the program Joey, a pineoblastoma patient, took part in the last several months.

Unique to Cook Children’s, Exercise is Medicine ~ Miles in Motion is the brainchild of Lydia Robey, PT, DPT, a 10-year Cook Children’s employee and a graduate of Hardin-Simmons University. What began as an idea based on years of personal research about the importance of exercise for oncology patients, turned into a reality when Lydia and the PT staff teamed up with nurses, and other caregivers, to put ideas into action.

As part of the program, patients are able to win prizes as they complete certain distances (1-mile bracelet, 5-mile bracelet, 10-mile gift card).

Team Experience at its best

Lydia credits physical therapy's partnership with nursing, and creating a culture that embraces exercise in the oncology setting for their successes. “When we first started out, we never dreamed we would have a patient who would want to complete a marathon,” she said.

Empowered with Cook Children's 2020 system competency, which is the behavior of listening, Haleigh Schreck, PT, DPT, who has worked at Cook Children’s for four years and graduated from UNT Health Science Center, shared, “We all agree it’s hugely important to listen to our patients to make sure we are addressing their specific concerns and goals around exercise and other activities. We want to make sure we’re serving them the best way we can to meet their individual needs and not just following our agenda for what we think they need.”

“We want them to feel they are a part of the team,” she added. “We sincerely want them to enjoy their PT time as much as possible so they stay motivated and want to participate.”

The Miles in Motion program does just that, she insists, since it is not uncommon for bone marrow transplant and hematology/oncology patients to be in isolation or reverse isolation, and finding an outlet for exercise and interaction is vitally important.

Over the course of four admissions to the Bone Marrow Transplant unit on 5 Pavilion, each 2-3 weeks long, Joey was able to complete 26.2 miles, and he did so while being cheered on by his therapists, nurses, Child Life specialists and many others.

Joining Haleigh in caring for Joey, was Bryan Pyrc, PT, DPT, a Duke University graduate and Cook Children’s employee for the last four years. “We would ‘fight’ over who got to work with Joey because he’s just such a great kid,” Haleigh chuckled.

“It was such a privilege to work with Joey and his family,” Haleigh added. “They are truly the kindest and most positive people, who are so enjoyable and fun to be around. Joey truly taught us so much about what this program can really become. His hard work and accomplishments are the only reason we ever thought about a marathon even being a possible achievement through Miles in Motion. He has already been an example to other patients who have seen what he was able to do and they want to do the same.”

In fact, other patients are now riding a stationary bike to achieve their “miles,” and an additional patient has since completed his own marathon, and declares he was motivated by Joey’s story.

Haleigh adds: “It has been so inspiring to see how a positive attitude can really change your whole experience. We are all so proud of Joey, this program and what it’s become. It is just so cool to see all of this happening and to think of all the potential it has to really benefit so many patients.

“We have worked extremely hard and are thrilled that Exercise is Medicine is getting so much attention because it is going to be so awesome for our patients!”

And really… it already is totally awesome!

You can read Joey’s feature story here.

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