Day of boating left rehabilitation patient floating on air, too
June 2 was a big day for rehabilitation patient Annamarie Moreno.
Until that day, the 33-year-old mother of two had never been sailing. Easing up to the dock at Vasona Lake County Park after her voyage, her smile shined like the hot sun.
The experience had Moreno floating not merely on water, but also, for days afterward, on air. Moreno told people it was one of her happiest days since the 2012 auto accident that left her a quadriplegic, disabled by a severe spinal cord injury.
As it turned out, it would also be one of Moreno’s last joyous occasions. Within weeks, you see, she would be dead from complications of infection.
Recreation therapy: Day on the Lake for rehabilitation patients
On Aug. 13, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors gathered, as it does routinely, to present commendations to County workers.
But, as Supervisor Ken Yeager noted, the presentation for the Day on the Lake event was “very special and unique.”
Yeager congratulated the Rehabilitation Center at Valley Medical Center and the County parks department for executing a “day of inclusion and accessible recreation.”
But what made the moment still more poignant was the presence of multiple disabled participants in the Day on the Lake. That and the glaring absence of Annamarie Moreno.
The inaugural Day on the Lake, which Yeager said should be repeated, drew almost 400 people, many of them with spinal cord injuries. About 100 of them took to the water in adaptive sailboats, kayaks, canoes and outriggers. [Update: Since this story was written, the County has committed to doing Day on the Lake again next summer.]
But it was the remarks of Moreno’s sister, Lisa Moreno-Chheng, that made the biggest impression. Flanking her at the lectern was a crowd. Annamarie and Lisa’s mother was there. So were County employees from the Rehabilitation Center and the Parks Department. Representatives of community service groups that made the event possible looked on. Many were disabled friends of Annamarie Moreno. The emotional weight of the moment was too great for Annamarie’s children, 11 and 9. Though they didn’t attend the commendation ceremony, they were with their mom for the Day on the Lake.
Tribute to ‘hope and happiness’
Moreno-Chheng’s held her gaze downward as she stood at the lectern. Her voice quavered as she started to read what her sister wrote about the Day on the Lake.
“On June 2, her 33rd birthday,” she read, “I was able to go sailing for the first time and to be around others like myself. When you’re in a chair and your life changes overnight, it’s important to be around other people who understand what you’re going through. And programs like this give people who are struggling some hope and happiness.”
Moreno-Chheng then looked up at the audience for the first time and managed a little smile. “Thank you for organizing this event,” she said to her sister’s friends caregivers. “And thank you for making her smile on her 33rd birthday.”