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Water Key to Rehabilitation

PHOTO: Damon Klein and Joyce WIlson spent an hour in the pool on Friday, June 21 for a Watsu session at Fraser Valley Aquatic Rehabilitation.

Damon Klein has tried numerous therapies since he sustained a brain injury in a longboarding accident two years ago. Watsu is the only therapy he looks forward to each week.

Watsu is warm water shiatsu – involving the balance of the entire body. Watsu combines elements of joint mobilization, shiatsu and muscle stretching.

Damon's mom, Jeanette Daigneault, says he loves being in the water and has seen incredible progress from his hours in the pool.
"When he's in the water, he has the confidence to try things he would be afraid to try on dry land," says Daigneault. "Because the movements underwater are slower, he recognizes his progress and sees his improvement. Plus, he's not afraid to fall because he won't get hurt. He'll be so excited and ask me, "Mom, do I have pool today?"
Watsu therapy can benefit anyone, but has traditionally been used for people with orthopedic or neurological challenges and chronic pain. Submersion in water stimulates blood flow and circulation because of the numerous forces acting on the body, like buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, viscosity and turbulence.
Joyce Wilson, who runs Fraser Valley Aquatic Rehabilitation with her daughter Holly, says she sees the benefits of Watsu on her clients every day.
"We do Watsu and Aquatic Integration (AI), which is an advanced form of Watsu specifically for rehab," says Joyce. "We see improvements with balance, strength, release of tension to allow for more movement, core improvement, range of motion and cardiovascular strength."
Fraser Valley Aquatic Rehabilitation has 43 clients, most of which heard about the centre through word of mouth.
Joyce says she loves what she does, as it combines two of her passions: water and helping people.
"I've always been interested in helping people," says Joyce. "I have my Care Aide certification and my Geriatric Activities Coordinator Course, which gave me a license to open my own place."
She started Aldergrove Adult Day Care 1995 and saw compelling results when working with clients in the water. Eventually, she focused the business to Watsu and AI.
Watsu was a natural fit for Joyce, who used to compete in swimming and diving. She earned the silver medal in diving for BC and held the record for breast stroke for three years in the Fraser Valley.
"When I was 12 I was very sick. I had my appendix out and they had to re-operate because something had gone wrong. A pool had just opened near my house and that is where I recovered. For some reason, I was completely drawn to the water and it helped me heal."
Joyce trained as a lifeguard and has been swimming ever since.
When her husband was diagnosed with a heart condition, she had a pool built at her home so he could use it for therapy. She continued with her training, including Watsu and AI training. Her husband has since passed away, but the pool continues to provide therapy for one-hour sessions from 9am to 5pm.
"It's incredibly rewarding to do this, but it can also be exhausting. Sometimes a person's motivation has been damaged and we have to be their motivation. But I certainly can't imagine doing anything else. I can't imagine working a desk job."
Janette Jackman, a leader at CONNECT, says several CONNECT residents incorporate Watsu into their week at Fraser Valley Aquatic Rehabilitation.
"The therapeutic benefits are incredible and the residents who go really love it," says Jackman. The families pay privately to access the service and the ones that do swear by it."
As for the future, Fraser Valley Aquatic Rehabilitation is looking to expand.
"Holly and her fiancé, Preston Rice, are studying to be physiotherapists and we have lots of plans for this place. We would love to incorporate physiotherapy and massage therapy. Maybe bring someone out to do acupuncture or cranial sacral. We envision making this into more of a wellness centre over time."
For more information about Fraser Valley Aquatic Rehabilitation, phone 604-856-3595.