Giving New Meaning to Patient Care: HSS Takes Patients Sailing on Long Island
Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) made a splash this month when it took young patients on a sailing trip. The Adaptive Sports Academy at the New York City hospital treated half a dozen patients, along with their parents or another relative, to a sailing adventure in magnificent Oyster Bay Harbor.
The academy, which is part of the hospital’s Lerner Children’s Pavilion, enables young people with cerebral palsy or another physical challenge to experience the benefits of sports and recreational activities. The excursions aim to build their self-confidence, encourage independence and increase physical activity.
Adaptive sports are designed for people with disabilities. Sometimes rules or equipment is modified to meet their needs. Previous HSS outings have proven to be life-changing for many children and teenagers, enabling them to participate in surfing, skiing, horseback riding and other activities.
Patients on the trip ranged in age from 10 to 20 years old. Most have cerebral palsy or another condition that affects body movement, muscle control, posture or balance. Several patients have had surgery at HSS and still go there for physical therapy.
All Hands on Deck
The WaterFront Center, a nonprofit community marine education and sailing center in Oyster Bay, provided the boats and specially trained instructors. The young people were given the option of sitting back and enjoying the ride or participating in maneuvering the boat. They didn’t think twice: it was all hands on deck.
The relatively calm water made it that much easier for patients to learn the ropes. Ten-year-old twins Maya and Alexandria Vega vied for a chance to steer the tiller. On a separate sailboat, Akeem Johnson of Brooklyn had ample opportunity to help the captain, and the 20-year-old had the time of his life.
The sailing trip was a first for Akeem and his cousin, Andrea Whyte, who went on the boat with him. “He steered the boat, and he also climbed up to help raise the sail. He maneuvered it really, really well,” she said. “It made me feel good, and he was excited to talk about it.”
Gloria Rios of the Bronx said she was reluctant at first, but went on the trip for her son, Charles, who is fearless. “I didn’t know if I should get on the boat. I’m a little scared of the water,” she explained. “But once we set sail, it was the most peaceful, relaxing experience. Oh, my gosh, I wanted to stay longer. And to see the joy on his face, especially when he was standing up there and pulling down the sail, it was amazing.”
“It was a great experience!” exclaimed Charles, who is 18 and always up for a new adventure. “I steered the boat with the tiller and lowered the sail. I learned that the wind needs to be strong to move the boat.”
"Sailing can have therapeutic benefits, such as improvement in motor skills and balance,” says Lisa S. Ipp, MD, chief of Pediatric Medicine at HSS. “Sailing and other adaptive sports activities also give patients a sense of accomplishment, and provide an opportunity for them to try new activities. It is always so rewarding to see the big smiles on the patients' and families' faces during these events!"
The WaterFront Center focuses on teaching sailing and seamanship, while promoting camaraderie, personal growth and increased independence for participants, says MacKenzie McGuckin, the center’s sailing director. “The HSS patients arrived eager and excited to go sailing. New experiences can create mixed feelings, but the group had no fears and was ready for a fun-filled day.”
The hospital sailing excursion and other trips for patients are offered without cost, thanks to the generosity of Adaptive Sports Academy sponsors. John Raggio, who owns the company Sealift, Inc. in Oyster Bay, stopped by the WaterFront Center on the day the patients went sailing. He and his wife, Donna, are among the donors who help make the excursions possible.
“On a previous trip, we saw the patients dancing with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, and that gave us more incentive to be involved with the academy,” he said. “It’s great to look at the kids’ faces and see how much they enjoy themselves.”
HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the 13th consecutive year), No. 3 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2022-2023), and the best pediatric orthopedic hospital in NY, NJ and CT by U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals” list (2022-2023). In a survey of medical professionals in more than 20 countries by Newsweek, HSS is ranked world #1 in orthopedics for a third consecutive year (2023). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has the lowest readmission rates in the nation for orthopedics, and among the lowest infection and complication rates. HSS was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center five consecutive times. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State, as well as in Florida. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. The HSS Innovation Institute works to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The HSS Education Institute is a trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal knowledge and research for physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, academic trainees, and consumers in more than 165 countries. The institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally. www.hss.edu.