Patients benefit physically, mentally from aquatic therapy

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Florida kids love to hit a cool pool to beat the heat during the summer, but a group of kids in Plant City hit the water every Friday to beat something else: their disabilities.

Once a week, South Florida Baptist Hospital offers pediatric and young adult aquatic therapy.

Jasmine Camargo is 9-years-old and has cerebral palsy, which makes the right side of her body very weak. She's needed therapy her whole life.

"After being in therapy for nine years, she didn't really want to do it [any] more," explained Jasmine's mom, Brenda.

To beat the monotony of years of therapy, Jasmine is trying the aquatic therapy this summer. Brenda says it has lit a spark in her daughter.

"She's actually motivated, even more now, to start doing her stretches on her own, like pushing and lifting up her foot," she said.

Physical therapist Carolina Goicochea says the program has opened up a whole new world to her patients.

"The kids get kind of bored in the clinic; they've been doing for a year, two years, three years. Then they come out here and it's something totally new and they are so much more motivated to participate," she explained.

Alex Crick, 19, also has cerebral palsy. He said being in the pool eliminates his biggest nemesis on land.

"There is all this gravity on land!" he said, laughing. "I feel like there is more control over my own body in the water."

Therapists say the deeper a child gets in the water, the more they are eliminating gravity and the more they are unweighting their joints, making them freer to move.

But this therapy goes beyond the physical. Speech and occupational therapists also meet with patients in the pool.

Another cerebral palsy patient, Jeremiah Rossiter is 4-years-old and also spent this summer receiving therapy in the water, but his was more than physical. His mom, Sandie said she noticed the improvements.

"His hand and eye coordination is getting a lot better. He's doing a lot better, able to get up off the floor when he falls over. He struggled with that before," she explained.

The aquatic therapy program was so popular this summer that South Florida Baptist Hospital hopes to double the amount of patients it can handle next year. The therapy is an extension of what the hospital already offers, so there is no additional cost to patients.