July 31, 2014

July Construction Update

Photo: B500 front with siding installation nearly completed
Construction crews of the new Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center (B-500) are nearing completion of the installation of the windows and the siding panels on the exterior of the building. The new center will overlap the original WBRC footprint on the Palo Alto VAPAHCS campus. This will be the VA's first and only Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center to be combined with a Blind Rehabilitation Center.

Photo: B500 courtyard with atrium glass & garden sculpture installed
At 174,000 square feet, this new facility is the largest consolidated rehabilitation center in the VA and will include 24 beds for the polytrauma program, 32 beds for the blind rehabilitation program, and 12 beds for the polytrauma transitional rehabilitation program. The center will also have an outpatient physical therapy/occupational therapy clinic, an outpatient physical medicine and rehabilitation clinic, and clinical programs for Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans.

Image: Rendering of B500 front once completed
Construction is anticipated to complete in late 2014 with the building becoming operational in Spring of 2015.

CLICK HERE to view additional construction pictures

CLICK HERE for construction updates

CLICK HERE to read the project's news release

July 28, 2014

Alumnus Interview: Pete Chavarria

Photo: Mr. Chavarria at the 2014 Golden Aged Games

Pete Chavarria, WBRC Alumni, recently participated in his first Golden Age Games in Arkansas.  He competed in the Horseshoes, Shuffleboard, and Bowling events bringing home two Bronze medals.  His coach Rachel Smith, WBRC Recreation Therapist, reports that Pete was not only an enthusiastic athlete, but also a wonderful cheerleader for his team.  Pete participated in the WBRC Basic Program and the WBRC iProgram in 2014.  He reports that both his time at the WBRC and his experience at the 2014 Golden Age Games have been life changing events and he graciously agreed to be interviewed in order to share his experiences here on the WBRC blog.

Pete, please tell us a little about yourself and about what got you interested in participating in the 2014 Golden Age Games.
I was born in the state of Texas, "Hook ‘em Horns", raised on the farm and went to school there during the Dr. Martin Luther King Era.  Then I went to Durham Business College.   I am a Vietnam war veteran from 1968/1969. I am 68 years old.  I got interested in the Golden Age Games cause two certain people said that I could do it, and that was bowling, that had been my sport for many years, so I decided to give it a try.

What type of vision loss do you have and how has it changed your approach to recreation activities (like bowling)?
My vision loss is with my right eye, lost my right field due to glaucoma, for a while I thought I was done, but a great doctor at PAD did surgery in my right eye.  It has taken more than a year to heal, and I think it is still healing and all for the good.  To be honest with you, the vision loss had nothing to do with me participating in a sport like bowling, it took three great persons to tell me that I could do it.  Maybe all I needed was a little push from certain people and you know who they are.  The WBRC had great!!! instructors with no doubt.

This was your first experience at the Golden Age Games.  What was your experience as an athlete and teammate?  Did participating in the games change you in any way?
It was  my first time at the games, I did not know what to expect, but I was willing to see what the games would give me.  As an athlete I was thrilled to be there with other veterans and just talking with them.  They came from all over the USA.  I had not seen that many veterans together.  I was excited to compete with them.  There was never a bad moment, everything was great.
Rachel Smith and her assistant Charles Davis, those two coaches kept us together and supportive of each other, from the begining to the end, they were always there for us while we were at the games. I feel that they do not get enough credit they deserve for their outstanding work. They should be recognized for excellence.   
Like I said before all I needed was somebody to tell me that I could do it.   All I needed was practice and that stayed in my mind.  Now that I am back and have those metals I know I can do it.  I will not let my vision loss stop me on anything that I want to do cause I know that I can do it, it was proven.

You completed two Blind Rehabilitation programs at WBRC this year.  Did you use any devices or techniques that you learned at WBRC for the Golden Age Games?
I used my long cane, I went down-stairs, up-stairs, and even rode in the transit buses.  I went up on the elevators and into the airplane carried my own luggage.  All the techniques that were shown to me at the WBRC were put to use every day.

You won 2 medals at the Games which you are planning to present to the WBRC.  What is your motivation to do this?
When we were getting ready for the games I came with the idea to do it, I talked to my boys [sons] and they thought it was a good idea on my part.  My motivation for this is that some time when I was there for my iProgram I talked to the director of the WBRC and I told her that if I could or would win any metals, that they were going to be presented to the director and the WBRC, all that for one reason, and the reason being that it was the place I got my first go at changing things in my life.  The center with all the great staff from top to bottom were great in helping me thru my ordeal and took out the negative out of my mind.  The WBRC will always be my second home and they deserve the metals as a symbol that it can be done no matter what your medical condition is.

What advice would you share with other veterans or persons experiencing vision loss?
The only advice that I can give other veterans, is stay positive.  I know that is easier said than done, but if you do that you will get thru your anger.  Remember it is all up to us the veteran to do it that nobody is going to do it for you.  You need to regroup and continue with life.  If you do that everything is going to be ok.  Never give up, keep pushing forward, and The Lord will help you. The motto is as follows, ‘YES YOU CAN DO IT’!
My final note to this is that I am getting ready for next year’s Golden Age Games.  I would love to be at the WBRC - if I could I would be there every day! There are very good staff working there.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Golden Age Games

Thank you Pete for sharing your experiences with us on the WBRC Blog.  Best of luck in your future endeavors and next year’s Golden Age Games!