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news News Friday, April 13, 2018 Friday, April 13, 2018 8:53 AM - Friday, April 13, 2018 8:53 AM

Spinal cord injury patients get healthy dose of GLAHM

Philadelphia Shriners Hospital hosts patients for special camp promoting independence and healthy living

Spinal cord injury patients get healthy dose of GLAHM

Four Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia patients recently enjoyed a four-day retreat in the heart of Philadelphia as part of the Good Life and Healthy Mind (GLAHM) camp organized by hospital staff. 

GLAHM Camp, inspired by a similar program at the Chicago Shriners Hospital, is designed to empower adolescents who have sustained spinal cord injuries to live engaging and independent lives. For this year’s camp, four young women were selected to participate from regions ranging from Elkins Park, Philadelphia, to Trinidad, South America.

Bethany Lipa, M.D., medical director of the rehabilitation program, has lead the planning group with support from nurses, therapists and the development and public relations staff.

“We believe in providing excellent patient care and we want to provide patients with the tools and resources to feel empowered outside of their normal element of the hospital and the routines at home,” said Lipa. “They get to experience new things, hear from others who have similar backgrounds and even be pampered!”

The program kicked off with a discussion with David Thomas, educational accessibility advisor for the University of the Arts, during which patients were able to learn about educational opportunities available to them.

Campers spent a day at Independence Blue Cross (IBX) headquarters, gaining insights from staff and learning about the opportunities that await them in the workforce. Patients received fitness tips from IBX’s fitness instructor and participated in a discussion with IBX associate Jimmy Curran, author of “Will the One-Winged Eagle.”

Patients were excited to meet city representative and former Philadelphia Shriners Hospital patient, Sheila Hess, and participate in an open conversation about Hess’s journey with spina bifida and its implications, or lack thereof, on her professional career.

In addition to the educational programming, campers were also treated to lively entertainment at the Walnut Street Theatre and special meals downtown. With help from camp counselors, patients received makeovers before a glamorous photoshoot with our hospital photographer inside the Masonic Temple.

“I think GLAHM Camp gave me a confidence in myself that I never had before. I used to feel ashamed of my disability,” said camper Christa. “I came back home to Trinidad with a fire in my eye, ready to retake control of my life.”

GLAHM counselors and hospital staff also worked with campers to give them new skills and tools to aid in their independence at home, such as how to hail a cab, choose healthy meal options, navigate the city and use public restrooms.

“When it comes to trying new things, before GLAHM, I would write off whatever it was without trying it first,” said Christa. “Now, I give myself the chance to do things before I decide whether or not something is for me. I'm now finding ways to improve myself and my lifestyle because I understand that being differently abled doesn't mean I'm unable to do things, but that I do things differently. I'm no longer ashamed of that.”

While GLAHM Camp’s goals are based on each individual camper’s goals, campers and staff all agree that the comraderie was the most invaluable aspect of the program.

“My favorite part of GLAHM Camp was, of course, the great staff and meeting girls that are going through the same things I am going through,” said Christa. “In fact, we are all in a WhatsApp group called the OGGs (Original GLAHM Girls). GLAHM Camp has provided me with a new support system. I now have a new group of girlfriends that understand me.”

GLAHM Camp was made possible by the generosity and support from grants and donors.

The Philadelphia Shriners Hospital GLAHM Camp girls 2018