The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center Spinal Cord Injury Unit (SCIU) has returned to utilizing its 50-foot rock wall as a source of therapy for Veterans. Here’s what two Veterans shared about their experience at the Augusta, Georgia, facility.

Fernando Cabello, an Army drill sergeant, was injured during a vehicle roll over. He uses the wall to build confidence. “I thought this was amazing,” Cabello said. “It was definitely a different perspective. I’ve done rock climbing on an actual wall before and then out on natural formations. Being able to see I was still able to do it, from a modified standpoint on placement of my feet, it definitely helped build my confidence. I felt, for a lack of better words, more normal if you will. It is fun to try the different things from the adaptive standpoint just to see how different it is at that level and it gives a different challenge that I think is under appreciated by many.”

Avila: The staff was extremely helpful in getting me up there.

“It pushed me really hard.”

New York native Hector Avila served four years in the Marine Corps, and is paralyzed from the waist down.

“The climb was pretty challenging,” Avila said. “It still was a good experience because it pushed me really hard. I could see the improvement so far with my time at the Spinal Cord Injury Center and what it has done for me so far. This is probably the second time in my life doing rock climbing and being able to climb as high as I did was exciting. I have started to get movement in my legs over the last three weeks here. The staff is very helpful, extremely helpful in getting me up there making sure I didn’t have any apprehensions about going up with my limitation and making me feel safe.”

Also participating in the rock climbing were Veterans Carl Reisch and Marine Corps Veteran Raymond Reece, seen in the red shirt in the top photo.


Derrick Smith is a public affairs specialist at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, Augusta, GA.

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Published on Jul. 1, 2021

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