Updated 04/18/2010 09:53 AM
Women Helping Women: Medical Center Extends Comfort Beyond The Exam Room
Most women know that a trip the gynecologist is not always the most comfortable experience. So just imagine how much more uncomfortable it typically might be living with a physical disability. As NY1 celebrates Women's History Month with our series "Women Helping Women," NY1 health reporter Kafi Drexel takes a look at a unique program working to improve access to care.
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Living with Blount's Disease, a degenerative bone disease that causes severe bowing of the legs, 34-year-old Kim Yancy-Theodore says getting in for a typical gynecological visit was never easy.
"As far as accessibility that was always a big issue. Location was always an issue and the height of the tables. That's a permanent issue," said Yancy-Theodore. "No matter where you go you have to climb up on something to get onto the table and that was always a problem."
Seeing the unique need for services for women with mobility challenges, the Initiative for Women with Disabilities Elly and Steve Hammerman Health & Wellness Center was formed. The center, which is part of the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, is all about accessibility.
The exam table automatically lifts and lowers patients, and it has special stirrups so doctor's can easily manipulate a patient's legs. The scale itself is even accessible, made larger and with a ramp. The center, which was designed for their special needs, is also run by women.
"It has been a nurturing experience. In fact, I feel more at home here than I have ever felt in other facilities. There is a person-to-person component which makes me feel as an older person, special. I am not invisible here," said patient Barbara Bryant.
"All too often we're touched and we are considered medical objects and we lose a sense of ourselves," said Initiative for Women with Disabilities Director Judith Goldberg. "Our goal is to bring us back into our bodies through all the complimentary and other modalities we have here."
Goldberg herself was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a brittle bones disorder. She can relate to her patients' experience, and the patients coming to the center can relate to her.
"I spent a lot of time in hospitals, also encountered a lot of different barriers that women have here. So I serve as a role model. I'm out in the community. I work. I'm management in a major medical center and by my example I them that I can go out and do what you need to do," said Goldberg.
The center also boasts a key wellness aspect by offering counseling, special yoga, Tai Chi and belly dancing classes as well as special services like acupuncture, reiki and reflexology.
"It is very liberating," said Yancy-Theodore. "I go out more. I do a lot more things than I did before. My confidence level, it works on every aspect."
"The women give back to the center. We have women who volunteer. Women help other women in getting to the center. We have women who meet other women on the paratransit system in New York and tell them about us and bring them here," said Goldberg.
For more information, visit www.iwdwellness.org.