YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood

One Walk: The Strength of Independence

Statement from Annie & Ashley: Fabio and his wife Erma used to go to church together each week, but ever since Fabio’s injury, walking to church became more and more difficult. To make matters worse, they moved to Wein House two years ago and their church is now a further distance from home. Fabio desperately wanted just one thing: to be able to walk to church again with his wife.

We are occupational therapy students from Columbia University. Occupational therapy is functional rehabilitation. We look at what activities are most important to their patients and help them to develop or regain the skills they need for everyday living. We were determined to help Fabio fulfill his dream.

We have been working with Fabio once a week since January to help him regain his ability to perform daily tasks as  he was able to before his injury. We have been working on increasing his independence in his daily activities and building his strength and endurance by walking more frequently. This has enabled Fabio to venture out of his apartment more often, allowing him to attend Y programs, socialize, and run errands independently. But his main goal was to be able to walk to church.

Much to our surprise, at our very last session with Fabio, he let us know that he walked to and from church with Erma last weekend to attend Easter Sunday services! 

Below is an interview we conducted with Fabio. He agreed to share his story about how we were able to help him regain his independence and physical ability. Building his confidence in his abilities to fully participate in life once again has promoted a better quality of life for Fabio. We have seen huge improvements with Fabio, and we are so proud of all the hard work he has been doing!


Interview with Fabio and Erma

Translated from Spanish by: Francisco Concepcion

Date of Interview: April 8, 2015

How have you improved since you started to work with the occupational therapy students? “I feel a thousand times better than when I first began. I feel lighter, I walk straighter, I am sleeping better, I can take care of myself more easily, I’m eating better, and my appetite is improved.”

What have you been doing to improve when you are on your own? “I have been eating healthier than before. I walk everyday in the hallway – back and forth for 15 minutes. I walk to the 99 cent store 2 blocks away by myself. I also walk to the supermarket and pharmacy down the block.

Before, when I needed to go to the pharmacy and supermarket, I used to ask my wife to go, but now I just go by myself. I’d rather do it on my own so that she has less work to do. I used to have to take lots of rest breaks when I walked, but now I take fewer breaks.

Have you noticed any changes to your social life since you started making these changes? “Since I started working with the occupational therapy students, I have attended a social coffee hour and an exercise class at the Wein House. I’ve never had the desire to go to these events before, but because of the encouragement of the OTs to attend more events, I was inspired to go.

One of your goals for occupational therapy was to improve your walking strength and endurance so that you could walk the half-mile each way to your church each week. How close are you to reaching that goal? “Yes, my goal was to be able to walk to church each Sunday with my wife. Because it was Easter last Sunday and my last week of OT, I made an extra effort to make it to church this weekend, and I did! I brought some money just in case I needed to take a cab, but I didn’t need it. I walked the whole distance both ways!”

How do you feel about your work with the OTs? “I am very happy, ecstatic, and joyous to be working with you guys. I feel like I can get back to my old ways.”

Question for Fabio’s wife, Erma: Erma, how have Fabio’s changes benefitted you? “It’s been very good! I used to do a lot of the work to maintain our home, and help out Fabio. But now I am able to do less work and be more comfortable now that Fabio is doing more independently.”


The Y is pleased to be a community placement for interns registered in graduate programs. Among these is the Occupational Therapy Program at Columbia University. Students assigned to the agency collaborate with social work staff to provide both direct service for clients and to facilitate groups. Individual clients are assessed to identify their needs and a care plan developed. The work with the client is designed to provide them with information and tools which enable them to live more independent, secure and enriched lives. Care plans address a wide range and can include such areas as: specific exercises, re-designing of rooms to allow for greater mobility, suggestions for dressing, bathing and cooking with greater ease and safety. Group discussions examine aging in place, enable participants to share experiences and ideas as well as gain information to enhance their quality of life.

About the Y
Established in 1917, the YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood (the Y) is Northern Manhattan’s premier Jewish community center — serving an ethnically and socio-economically diverse constituency — improving the quality of life for people of all ages through critical social services and innovative programs in health, wellness, education, and social justice, while promoting diversity and inclusion, and caring for those in need.

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