By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Writer
What physiotherapist DeVonnia Bonimy-Lee enjoys most about her profession is the “detective work” that goes into understanding the source of each of her client’s aches and pains so she can come up with a tailor-made plan to address their needs.
“If you can control your health and your mind, you can control your life. These two things can make you feel and look young beyond your years or make you feel like it’s your last day on earth,” she told Tribune Weekend.
And never has this control been more needed than during the current outbreak of the coronavirus.
“The COVID-19 global pandemic has shown us all that time and again. Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease make us more prone to disease, putting the individual and community at risk,” she said.
As Viva Physio and Wellness practice in Sandyport is temporarily closed, Dr Bonimy-Lee is doing what so many others businesses are doing: she is offering virtual sessions on the internet.
And while physical therapy is something that usually requires a hands-on approach, Dr Bonimy-Lee said they are able to offer a virtual physical therapy clinic on a HIPAA-approved platform for patients who were already in a programme before the lockdown to continue with their physiotherapy sessions.
The second service she is offering are online wellness classes covering issues people may be experiencing during self-isolation, including anxiety, reduced activity, and poor posture while working from home. Dr Bonimy-Lee said people may also notice muscular pain or discomfort in their necks, chest, shoulders and pelvis.
There are five low-impact classes to assist people with their general well-being during this challenging time. Topics for these classes include: awareness of the pelvis, restorative yoga and stress management, six-week intensive postpartum fitness, private yoga sessions and “Breathe Easy” - a free group class developed specifically for the lockdown. This class promotes breath awareness, chest expansion and focuses on specific breathing exercises. This class is also safe and appropriate for those in various stages of cancer treatment or survivorship.
“The virtual platform was a necessary addition to my clinic to remain connected to my clients during this time. I am a sole practitioner with two children under six. When schools closed on March 16, I had to adapt to a schedule of online homeschooling while supporting my spouse’s work-from-home schedule, meal prep and regular cleaning to ensure a safe and enjoyable home life. Although I felt able to assist my clients, I was waiting for updates from the government, had very limited supply of appropriate personal protective equipment, and feared I may, unintentionally, bring the virus home to my young children. I did not feel home-care was a viable option for me with the resources I had available,” she said.
“Virtual sessions are educational, they offer new alternatives for social interaction, they are safe once offered by a skilled and experienced practitioner and create new opportunities for movement. If you are someone who was not in great health, time-poor and had very little opportunity for exercise before the lockdown, during this period you are more likely to develop issues like swelling in the legs, reduced cardiovascular endurance, reduced strength, mental distress and reduced immune function.”
The virtual classes, she said, can help improve blood flow, active muscle use, improved flexibility, reduction of everyday aches and pains, healthy options for stress management, and overall improved lymphatic flow and the subsequent immune response.
When it comes her clients, Dr Bonimy-Lee said it’s a rewarding feeling to be able to help them improve their quality of life. She also enjoys the calm atmosphere of her workplace and appreciates that she is able to connect with people in a purposeful way in her field of work.
Physical fitness has played a major part in her life since she was young. When she was 10 years old, she took up gymnastics and later coached others as she got older.
In addition to working as a physical therapist for the past 13 years, she has also practiced yoga for 10 years and became a certified yoga teacher while living New York in 2010.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work in some of the most demanding clinical environments in the United States, which prepared me to open my own private practice back in the Bahamas. If anything, I would have liked to spend more time practicing yoga and dancing, however, I manage to weave these into a holistic vision of physical therapy at Viva Physio and Wellness,” said Dr Bonimy-Lee.
Physical therapists, she explained, treat injuries, diseases and/or dysfunctions without the use of medication or surgery, but rather with education and exercise.
“My first position as a doctor of physical therapy was at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York - the largest and oldest private cancer centre in the world. Here, I learned how physical therapists promote quality of life for patients with cancer; from those who walk in, to those who know they are not going to walk out. I also learned about the many types of cancer, types of surgery, treatments and the effect of cancer treatment on various parts of the body including, but not limited to, the pelvis. I’m a US board certified specialist in pelvic health, which includes treating a range of pelvic issues and other, including bladder and bowel dysfunction, post-prostate urinary issues, cancer and lymphoedema, tailbone pain, and pregnancy-related muscular issues such as diastasis recti, prolapse and postural issues,” said Dr Bonimy-Lee.
Her Viva Physio and Wellness practice actually specialises in pelvic health physical therapy and rehabilitation, as well as community education and private yoga instruction specific to pelvic floor rehabilitation, pre-natal and postpartum issues. She also focuses on musculoskeletal pain, cancer rehabilitation and lymphoedema management.
For those interested in Dr Bonimy-Lee’s online classes, check the website vivaptwellness.com and follow her @pelvicfloorlady on Instagram and Viva Physio and Wellness on Facebook for updates.