November 21, 2011

Building Resilience After a Disability

Written By:
Jessica Lohnberg, Ph.D., Psychology Postdoctoral Fellow
Laura Peters, Ph.D., Staff Psychologist, WBRC

Photo: A windswept tree growing out of a crevice in some rocks.

When people are faced with a disability, such as sight loss, it is common to experience a variety of emotions.  People report feeling shock, depression, anger, and eventually move toward acceptance and coping.   So, why are some people able to bounce back from adversity fairly quickly, while others suffer for extended periods of time and may get stuck?

Resilience means being able to “roll with the punches” and adapt to life’s hardships.  People who are resilient experience the same emotions everyone else does, they are just able to keep functioning and get back to baseline more quickly.  People who are resilient are better able to adjust, adapt, and normalize their lives in spite of the their disability.  Some people even notice positive changes that come from dealing with a disability.  For example, some people report their relationships have become closer and stronger; others report that out of hardship, they have learned what is important in life and may re-prioritize what they are doing; some have developed a stronger sense of spirituality

Here are some tips to increase resiliency:

1.  Get connected with others:  Those with strong positive relationships with others weather adversity better than those who are isolated.

2.  Make every day meaningful:  Find something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day.  Set short and long term goals for yourself.

3.  Take care of yourself both physically and emotionally by doing things you enjoy; physical exercise daily; get plenty of sleep and rest; eat healthy foods; find ways to relax through music, deep breathing, meditation or prayer.

4.  Learn from experience:  Think of how you have dealt with difficulties in the past:  What has worked and what hasn’t helped.  Try to rely on the strategies that have worked well for you as you respond to life’s current challenges.

5.  Be proactive:  Those who are resilient don’t avoid their problems, they problem solve, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan and take action.  People who cope actively fare much better than those who avoid.

6.  Maintain a sense of hope:  Remind yourself you cannot change the past, but you can use what you have learned in the past as you look toward the future.  By anticipating changes and planning for them you will be better able to meet the challenge when it comes.

November 14, 2011

WBRC Welcomes New Guide Dog Puppy in Training

Photo: Cactus the Guide Dog puppy in training sitting in WBRC's Rec Room

WBRC would like to welcome 'Cactus', a new Guide Dog puppy 'in training'.  Cactus is a 12 week old female yellow Labrador who is being raised and trained by Laura Koehler, WBRC Orientation and Mobility Specialist.  Cactus will accompany Mrs. Koehler to work and in the community for about 18 months to become acclimated to a variety of environments, people, and situations prior to returning the Guide Dogs for the Blind for evaluation and additional training to become a Guide Dog. 

Photo: Cactus the Guide Dog puppy in training laying down at
the feet of Laura Koehler, O&M Instructor and Puppy Raiser

Cactus is the 12th Guide Dog puppy that Mrs. Koehler has raised for Guide Dogs for the Blind.  Her last Guide Dog puppy, Pedro, is currently an active Guide Dog in Texas. 


November 10, 2011

Veterans Day 2011

Photo: American Flag
WBRC would like to honor the men and women of our country that have served and are serving in our armed forces.  Thank you for your service to our fine country and it's people.  the following is an excerpt from the 2011 Veterans Day Presidential Proclamation:

'Today, our Nation comes together to honor our veterans and commemorate the legacy of profound service and sacrifice they have upheld in pursuit of a more perfect Union. Through their steadfast defense of America’s ideals, our service members have ensured our country still stands strong, our founding principles still shine, and nations around the world know the blessings of freedom. As we offer our sincere appreciation and respect to our veterans, to their families, to those who are still in harm’s way, and to those we have laid to rest, let us rededicate ourselves to serving them as well as they have served the United States of America.'

CLICK HERE to read the Full Presidential Proclamation

November 9, 2011

WBRC Receives Move Dates

Photo: Cardboard Box with words 'Moving Day' written on
side, sharpie marker, and packing tape.

WBRC received news of the dates for our move to our new site at the Menlo Park VA Hospital Campus.  The planned dates for the move are from December 2nd to December 6th.  WBRC will be moving into a newly constructed 42,000 square foot facility.

The move to the Menlo Park location will be temporary while a new Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center is built on the Palo Alto VA Hospital Campus.  The anticipated start date of that construction is May 2012 with anticipated completion in March 2014.

CLICK HERE to learn more about our New Menlo Park Location

CLICK HERE to learn more about the plans for the New Rehabilitation Center at Palo Alto

CLICK HERE to read the News Release regarding the contract to build the New Rehabilitation Center at Palo Alto

November 7, 2011

Stanford School of Medicine Website Reviews VA Palo Alto Construction Projects

The Stanford School of Medicine website has written an article reviewing the numerous construction projects at the VA Palo Alto Hospital campus and how these projects will impact their students.  Excerpts from the article follow below:

Image: Rendering of the front of the new Blind Rehabilitation
Center and Polytrauma Building planned for the Palo Alto Campus

'Huge VA Project to Boost Med School Mission'
October 24, 2011

'A dozen state-of the-art buildings that will advance the medical school’s clinical, educational and research missions are beginning to rise, but Stanford isn’t leading the effort.

With a construction budget of more than $1 billion, the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, or VAPAHCS, has launched an ambitious building project on its flagship campus on Miranda Avenue in Palo Alto, leaving almost no spot of the 93-acre site untouched. The plan includes a new mental health center; the Department of Veterans Affairs’ largest rehabilitation center, which will combine polytrauma and blind rehabilitation; additional research space; and additional lodging facilities for veteran patients and family members.

The project is driven by an emphasis on patient-centric care and concerns about seismic safety. The project is also part of a broader shift by the VA and health care in general toward more outpatient services, concentrating the most advanced tertiary care services at flagship facilities, such as the Palo Alto site. VAPAHCS, in addition to revamping and expanding its outpatient facilities outside the Palo Alto campus, is taking steps to ensure that its main campus continues to offer the latest treatment modalities and meet new and pressing needs, such as those of the increasing numbers of veterans who have suffered multiple injuries, including traumatic brain injury. As part of that process, VAPAHCS is enhancing its 50-year affiliation with the School of Medicine, adding space for the education of Stanford doctors who treat veterans and the research by Stanford faculty on injuries and illness that affect veterans and others.
“Our success is predicated in part on the success of Stanford medical school,” said Jason Nietupski, the VAPAHCS director of planning and development. “The more successful Stanford is, the more successful our programs are.”

VAPAHCS spans a 10-county, 13,500-square mile region encompassing 275,000 veterans. It had research expenditures of approximately $75 million in 2010, the second- largest research program in the national VA network, supporting 200 principal investigators, including about 90 faculty members from the medical school. This year, VAPAHCS is training 750 residents and fellows and 211 medical students from the School of Medicine. It has more Centers of Excellence — programs with special emphasis — than any other VA health-care system nationwide, and thousands of veterans are referred each year from outside its catchment area to benefit from the expertise, and specialized services it offers...

The Palo Alto campus is one of five facilities in the country designated by the VA to provide intensive rehabilitative care to veterans and service members who have multiple traumas. At 174,000 square feet, the new building will be the largest rehabilitation center in the federal government, with 24 beds for polytrauma/physical medicine and rehabilitation, or PM&R, patients; 32 beds for the blind rehabilitation program; and 12 beds for the polytrauma transitional program, which teaches disabled veterans such daily activities as driving and cooking. The new facility will co-locate inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs including PM&R, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and polytrauma and blind rehabilitation within a single state-of-the-art treatment center.

This new rehabilitation center will consolidate providers of polytrauma and vision rehabilitation, who are now distributed around the Palo Alto campus into the same facility.

“The entire system of care for polytrauma and vision-loss patients will be in one building, and that in itself will augment the care we provide,” said Odette Harris, MD, an associate professor of neurosurgery and the VAPAHCS associate chief of staff for polytrauma, who is also director of the Palo Alto site of the Department of Defense-supported Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center...

When completed in 2014, the building will also impact the Stanford trainees in the physical medicine and rehabilitation residency, who provide care for the polytrauma patients. “It’s a top-notch residency, and this building will only make it better,” said Harris.'

CLICK HERE for a link to the FULL ARTICLE

CLICK HERE for more information about the Rehabilitation Center Plans

November 4, 2011

WBRC Digs Up 1998 Time Capsule in Preparation for Move

Photo: The WBRC time capsule buried in 1998 has been
dug up in preparation for the move to Menlo Park
The Staff of WBRC were surprised last week at their staff meeting by the presentation of the time capsule that had been buried on the grounds around the WBRC in 1998 by staff and students.  The time capsule was filled with items and buried in 1998 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of VA Blind Rehabilitation.  The plaque that marked the location of the time capsule reads "In Recognition of the 50th Anniversary of VA Blind Rehabilitation and the 23,000 blinded veterans who have been served by the VA Blind Rehabilitation programs, a time capsule was dedicated on October 23, 1998.  To be opened October 23, 2098".  WBRC will honor the plan, moving the time capsule to be displayed at the temporary Menlo Park location and then burying it underground once they return to their permanent location in Palo Alto. 

November 1, 2011

November VIST Group Meeting Scheduled for Palo Alto Only

Image: VIST Logo
The Visual Impairment Services Team (VIST) group is open to all veterans, Active-Duty Service Members, family members and those interested in promoting the community of B/VI veterans in the region are welcome. We have varying presentations and discussions of new technology, special training and many subjects relevant to B/VI persons.

The next Palo Alto VIST group meeting will be held on Thursday November 17th from 1 pm to 2 pm at the address below:
VAPAHCS Palo Alto Hospital
Building 48 (WBRC) Room A208
3801 Miranda Ave
Palo Alto, CA 93401

There will not be a Stockton VIST group meeting scheduled in November due to Thanksgiving.