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Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre to reopen hydrotherapy pool

by Shaina Luck, CBC News

After nearly five years, physiotherapy patients at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre are getting ready to go back in the pool.

The heated hydrotherapy pool, used for pain management, mobility and joint problems, has been out of commission since 2011 after its cast-iron pipes corroded and caused frequent leaks at the facility on Summer Street in Halifax.

Despite a large outcry from patients, therapists and community members, a decision was made to close it indefinitely in December 2011.

But after an extensive $2.6 million renovation, the pool is expected to be open by the end of July or early August.

Special kind of therapy

"It's a very special kind of medium that is difficult to reproduce in any other way," said Judy Lugar, a physiotherapist at the rehabilitation centre.

The water, which is heated to about 35 C, is good for pain management. The heat helps arthritic joints and spastic muscles, and allows patients to do a greater variety of exercises.

"It's going to be beautiful. I can't wait to get in," said Sarah Blades, an in-patient at the centre. Blades has been working on her upper body strength since arriving at the centre in April and currently uses a wheelchair.

"I had herniated discs back in March. I stood up one day and they just all snapped, and my spinal cord was compressed," she said.

Pain management

The therapy pool will help Blades get more exercise and may help her manage pain.

"I've always liked to swim in the summer, and one of the only things my daughter had actually asked of this whole thing was, she just wanted me to be able to swim with her in the summer," she said.

Randi Monroe, rehabilitation director at QEII Health Sciences Centre, said about 30 to 60 patients a day are expected to use the pool. That number includes outpatients, as the pool will be available to the community.

Renovation was challenging

There have been some delays to the pool's reopening schedule, and there is still some chemical and tile work left to do.

As the centre began to work with architects on the renovation, it learned the pool presented unusual challenges because it is located on the third floor of the building.

"So it's a quite complicated architectural feat, and needed to be redesigned from the inside and outside. So we actually have a brand new pool," Monroe said.

The pool was completed with a fundraising campaign that raised $2.6 million.

Huge fundraising campaign

"This is the largest campaign for the rehabilitation centre in decades. I've been involved for 20 years, and we've never done this before," said Bill Bean, the CEO of the QEII Foundation.

"This was a huge moment for us to celebrate rehab."

The largest gift was a $1-million donation from the family of Carol Hansen-MacDonald and Colin MacDonald, chairman of Clearwater Seafoods.

That led to the pool being named the Grace Hansen Therapeutic Pool after Carol Hansen-MacDonald's mother.

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