December 2, 2016 BestCompaniesAZ

St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center | Disabled Veterans Get Rare Chance to Make Waves at Bartlett Lake

dignity healthFor the first time, Barrow Neurological Institute is hosting a special Day on the Lake sporting event just for disabled veterans.

The annual outing, which gives people with physical and neurological disabilities a rare chance to enjoy adapted water sports, has been offered for 18 years. “This year, we decided to hold a special day just for veterans and it will coincide with the anniversary of Sept. 11,” says Jo Crawford, program coordinator for the Barrow Connection program at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Barrow. Crawford says approximately one dozen vets from around the state will participate.

Among those taking part in the Bartlett Lake event on Sept. 12 from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. will be Army veteran Brian Smith. The 55-year-old veteran joined the Army in 1977 and served for 5 years with field artillery prior to re-signing in 2002 as an Army nurse after completing his college degree. In 2009, Smith was seriously injured as he fell while helping provide relief from Hurricane Ida in Texas.

Smith says he doesn’t remember much about the fall, which caused a traumatic brain injury. He received extensive therapy to regain his speech and vision and sometimes depends on a cane when walking becomes too laborious.

“Being out on the water with other veterans…it’s just a good sense of camaraderie,” says Smith who is also being treated by a Barrow neurologist for seizures that started after the accident. “I’m excited to get back out on the water like when I was younger and stationed overseas; especially knowing I’ll be out there with other vets and trying new stuff. It really is the best.”

Barrow’s Day on the Lake program offers adapted water sports including water skiing, jet skiing, kayaking, boating and fishing. It is the only integrated water sports program of its caliber in the state.

“Barrow believes that everyone has the right to live an active and productive life,” Crawford adds. “We’re thrilled to provide a Day on the Lake event this year that honors those who served our country.”

“Events like this help. I know that’s true for the other guys too, because in the beginning I suffered from depression, PTSD, and was pretty much home-bound. It was difficult to go out,” says the Surprise resident who has always enjoyed spending time outdoors. Although he admits getting back to the active lifestyle he is used to living has been a challenge since the accident, Smith explains that different activities like Day on the Lake gradually help relieve the fear that surfaces after an injury. “This is going to be a really special day,” he adds.

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