I never thought I would learn so much from playing Bingo

Recently, I participated in a Community Experience that involved playing Bingo with some patients at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C. When I got to the hospital I met with two other members of the Junior League to set up for the night’s activity. We set up the tables, prizes and supplies and waited for the patients to arrive.

Five patients and three family members attended the event. Bingo was a perfect game for the patients to play. Listening to the numbers being called out and associating the letters and numbers being read aloud with those on their Bingo cards helped them improve their cognitive function as many of the patients were on medication that left them feeling a little foggy. The act of putting the markers on their Bingo cards was important too, because it helped them to improve the functioning of their fingers by grasping small items and setting them in their correct spot on the cards.

Most all of the patients used three cards at once which helped them focus on more than one task and encouraged them to use their arms, hands and fingers more than they would normally. Playing Bingo was fun, but the greatest part of the night was talking to the patients and learning more about their conditions, their struggles and their lives.

The patients were in rehabilitation for many different reasons and were at many different stages in their recovery. One patient told us about how he was enjoying using Wii Tennis as a way to improve the functioning in his arms as well as his hand-eye coordination.

Another patient was excited about leaving the facility, as tonight was her last night in the hospital. Her coordination she learned through rehabilitation was excellent, and she was the big winner of the night, taking home two prizes, both of which she had planned to give to her roommate, an 80-year-old lady whom she called “the life of the party.”

Of all of the patients I met that night, none was more inspiring than a 20-something man. His state of the art wheelchair with a touch screen and remote button intrigued us and he showed us how it could increase and decrease speed, raise and lower, and deflate to take pressure off certain parts of his body.
To our amazement, through talking about how we came to the District, we realized we were both from the same hometown in Alabama. This sparked conversation about our favorite BBQ spots, college life and of course, Alabama vs. Auburn football. We also talked about his recovery story and how his condition started.

Hearing his story was humbling. But the JLW volunteers also humbled him:

I know that you have probably been working all day, but you still came to spend your night playing Bingo with us,” he said, “you didn’t have to do this.

He’s right. We didn’t, but now I’m glad we did.

Posted by: Nicole, JLW New Member