Heather's Pool

Published: Oct. 2, 2017

Helping Patients Heal

It was a project years in the making. Now, a new warm water aquatic therapy pool at Methodist Physicians Clinic HealthWest will soon help patients heal from injury and illness.

Heather’s Healing Pad was dedicated on Oct. 2, 11 months after 37-year-old Heather Roberts – the inspiration and driving force behind the therapy pool – lost her life to brain cancer.

“I know she's here with us, looking down and smiling,” said RyAnne Elsesser, philanthropy officer at Methodist Hospital Foundation. “I know she's so proud that this is something that will help others.”

Heather's Story

Heather was diagnosed in April 2008, and she knew from the beginning that she wanted to raise awareness, funds and research dollars to fight the disease. Together, Heather and her family founded Leap-for-a-Cure, and through partnerships with UNO Hockey, Lancer Hockey and other initiatives, raised more than $850,000 for technology, training and other brain cancer resources.

“Heather wanted this pool from the beginning,” said Sue Roberts, Heather’s mother and co-founder of Leap for a Cure. “We are so appreciative of everyone who has been a part of this.”

Leap for a Cure

Aquatic therapy – which was critical during Heather’s cancer journey – is the latest initiative partly funded by Leap for a Cure. The new Hydroworx 2000 hydrotherapy pool offers many features that will help patients with a variety of illnesses.

“The pool itself has a zero depth entry so you don't have to climb in and out using a ladder,” said Tom Franco, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist with Methodist Physicians Clinic HealthWest. “You can get on the surface and it will descend up to six feet. It has a treadmill that will go up to eight miles an hour and has room to strengthen your limbs. For those that want to swim or walk against jets, you can have water resistance as well. It has cameras to analyze a person's exercise in therapy so a person can make adjustments and corrections in terms of the effectiveness of the therapy.

State of the Art

The aquatic therapy pool offers:

  • A variable-depth pool floor for safe entry and exit without steps or ladders.
  • A large 8’ x 12’ underwater low-impact treadmill floor which can smoothly increase in speed from 0 to 8.5 mph in safe .2 mph increments.
  • Specialized computer software for enhanced treatment planning to maximize patient progress.
  • Monitors and underwater video cameras to record and analyze therapy sessions.
  • Resistance jet technology, adjustable to 200 speeds for variable water massage therapy.
  • Warm-water easily adjustable to temperatures from 90 to 108 degrees.

“The patients we envision seeing are cancer patients that have balance difficulties and the need for recovering their strength from all the different therapies necessary for cancer,” said Dr. Franco. “We expect to use it for neurologic patients that have perhaps had a stroke or some other neurologic injury, orthopedic patients, and arthritis patients as well. Thousands of people will benefit from this pool.”

The pool expansion project cost $1.3 million, and opens to patients on October 10th.

“I'm absolutely thrilled that Leap for a Cure and Heather's initiative and interest provided this opportunity to put a pool in the Methodist system,” said Dr. Franco. “This is one of a kind. This is going to benefit hundreds and thousands of patients that come next and beyond. This is a legacy for Heather.”


In the News:

Omaha World-Herald: Therapy Pool at Methodist HealthWest Pays Tribute to Omaha Woman who Died of Brain Cancer

Read “Heather Roberts, Miracle Woman" in The Meaning of Care Magazine | Fall 2017