ENID, Okla. — Enid AM AMBUCS recently gave away two specially-designed AmTrykes at the Oklahoma City VA hospital — part of a growing program to serve disabled veterans.
Kent Clingenpeel, Amtryke coordinator for Enid AM AMBUCS, said the club decided several years ago to make veterans one of their focus groups "because there are a lot of disabled vets in the country."
Clingenpeel said AMBUCS provides trykes for veterans who suffered amputations, traumatic brain injuries or spinal column damage in combat, but they also also serve those veterans who, because of age and other factors, just need a better way to exercise to improve their health.
Air Force veteran Susan Hiler was introduced to the AmTryke program through the Therapeutic Recreation Clinic at the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System, where she is working to increase her strength and stamina to better live with her arthritis.
“Last year when I was doing Tai Chi classes for arthritis, recreation therapist Stacy Lawton suggested I try a new type of bicycle,” Hiler said.
Lawton was referring to the AmTryke Tadpole Recumbent Therapeutic Tricycle, which can be configured to be propelled by the upper or lower body.
After years of struggling to stay active, Hiler said she was at first skeptical about a new bike.
“It felt like, ‘Wow, do I still know how to ride?’” Hiler said. “But then, with the recumbent bike, I thought, ‘I love this, I can ride one of these.’”
Clingenpeel said Enid AM AMBUCS works to provide the trykes to veterans who are consistently working through the VA's recreational therapy program, and on Oct. 9 the club took two trykes to the Oklahoma City VA facility.
The response to the new trykes was gracious, Clingenpeel said.
"One of the veterans was so overcome with emotion that he was getting something for free," Clingenpeel said. He said he tries to reinforce to the veterans they paid for the trykes, and so much more, with their service.
"We're rewarding those people for their service for us. It's a win-win for all of us," Clingenpeel said. "Anything that I can be involved in, and our club can be involved in, to help these veterans, I will do about anything to make that happen."
Veterans who wish to be considered for a recumbent bike need to request a referral from their VA Primary Care provider. The veteran then is evaluated to ensure a tryke would work for them.
“We have to make sure that the veteran is safe getting on and off the bike and is able to ride for a minimum of 30 minutes without an issue,” said Lawton. “They also need to be able to safely lift the bike into and out of their vehicle.”
Recreational therapists also work with veterans to meet the requirements needed to ride the bike. This includes building stamina, losing weight, or increasing strength.
“Veterans are encouraged to participate in the therapeutic exercise clinics,” said Lawton. “We want them to get out of the house, not isolate at home, get some exercise, and spend time with their fellow veterans. There’s also the secondary component of improving mental clarity. Some veterans tell us cycling has really helped with their PTSD.”
“You meet other veterans who have the same interests as you, and you can talk with them where maybe you can’t talk to your spouse or family sometimes because they don’t understand,” Hiler said. “And then, you see others in therapy who are just starting and struggling. But, they see me and I tell them that I don’t let my disabilities control me.”
"As with all programs and services at the Oklahoma City VA, the goal is to keep veterans healthy, both physically and mentally," according to a press release.
For more information on the VA Recreational Therapy program, call (405) 456-3918.
Enid AM AMBUCS will be cooking for the Jumbo Foods Oktoberfest, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, at Jumbo Foods, 2311 W. Willow.
AMBUCS will be cooking bratwursts and ribeye sandwiches for the event, and a portion of the proceeds from the event will support AMBUCS programs.
Live music, outdoor seating and ribs cooked by Head Country BBQ also will be featured at Oktoberfest.