Lakewood Nonprofit Spearheading Alternative Therapy for Spinal Cord Injuries

04/27/16  10:44 AM PST
alternative therapy for spinal cord injuries

Original story by Austin Briggs | The Denver Post – April 21, 2016

LAKEWOOD —On a recent Friday morning, Dawn Russell wheeled into a therapy room in a Lakewood office building, still stiff and sore from a pain-laced night.

In a relaxing environment of exposed brick, soft light and soothing music amid plants and statues, massage therapist Joby Siciliano gently lifted Russell out of her wheelchair and placed her on a massage table, wedging pillows under her feet and knees.

The first thing Siciliano noticed was her feet, which had swollen to almost twice their normal size.

“I’ve never seen that much swelling before,” he said. “We’re going to have a lot of work to do to get that taken care of.”

For over a year now, Russell, who has cerebral palsy, has been receiving alternative therapy through a program offered by the nonprofit Chanda Plan Foundation.

“I would not be functioning on the level I’m at without their support, both emotionally and physically,” Russell said, as tears streamed down her face. “I can’t stress that enough, the emotional and psychic pain caused by that level of grief — these services help so much with that.”

Russell said she enrolled when her partner and caregiver of 26 years died unexpectedly last year, throwing her into a dark depression and unbearable anxiety.

“Little did I know it would eventually be a very stable thing in my life through this process,” Russell said, as Siciliano slowly massaged the fluid out of her feet.

The foundation at 8725 W. 14th Ave. has operated since 2005. Chanda Hinton-Leichtle formed the organization when she was 23 years old; a stray bullet had paralyzed her when she was 9.

The founder and executive director became inspired to help others after the use of integrative therapies like acupuncture, massage and yoga brought her back from the brink of death.

“The body needs to have movement whether you’re paralyzed or not,” Hinton-Leichtle said. “I saw the benefits of these alternative therapies — from mental health to nutrition to physical health — and realized there was a significant gap in health care for this population.”

The organization is a “one-stop shop,” Hinton-Leichtle said, for clients with qualified physical disabilities, where they can see a primary care physician, receive mental health services, traditional medical services and alternative therapies.

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