MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach rehabilitation patients with disabilities set sail for a summer adventure out at sea to increase their self-esteem and peer interactions.

Patients and their family and friends gathered at the U.S. Sailing Center in Long Beach, where they met with their personal skippers to learn sailboat basics and safety skills before their trip. The crew of experienced skippers took three sailboats filled with past and present Miller Children’s & Women’s patients out on a fun and relaxing and educational sailing around the Alamitos Bay Marina and into the Pacific Ocean.

While patients enjoyed their breezy cruise and helping the skipper steer the sailboat, they also discussed their rehabilitation stories with one other. Jennifer Alonzo, 20, shared her journey to recovery after a life changing diagnosis.

During her junior year of high school, Jennifer suddenly lost control of her balance and struggled to walk. She went to a local hospital for help, where doctors determined she required specialized care. Jennifer was transferred to Miller Children’s & Women’s where she was diagnosed with Ataxia, a rare degenerative neurological disorder.


“For six months I had to use a wheelchair to be mobile. With support from rehabilitation therapy, I relearned everything, even basic life skills,” says Jennifer. “My condition took away my independence. It was like starting over from birth. I was so frustrated that I wouldn’t eat, and I isolated myself in my room.”

Jennifer’s recovery took many years and included physical, speech, occupational and recreational therapy, as both inpatient and patient. The entire Miller Children’s & Women’s rehabilitation care team worked together to help Jennifer get to where she is today — walking, talking and even helping sail a sailboat.

“I’ve seen my patients from the very beginning of their journeys, when they couldn’t walk, eat or do other simple daily life tasks, said Mariana de Sena, C.T.R.S, recreational therapist, Miller Children’s & Women’s. “Seeing them today and the progress they have made just brings tears to my eyes. I credit their success in recovery to their families, rehabilitation care team and their perseverance.”

The Rehabilitation Program’s year-round activities include experiences such as sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, horseback riding and other community recreation opportunities. These events encourage patients to seek out new activities and skills to give them something to look forward to while they are receiving regular therapies throughout the year.

“Looking back, there were times when I wanted to give up on everything,” says Jennifer. “I’m thankful for Miller Children’s & Women’s and the ongoing support and encouragement from my therapists and parents to overcome my disorder. It’s because of them and my family that I graduated high school on time and continue to push forward.”

The U.S. Sailing Center in Long Beach has worked with Miller Children’s & Women’s Rehabilitation Program for almost 20 years. The center continues to support the well-being and progress of patients by providing this experience to more than 250 patients thus far.