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Vancouver’s Ronald McDonald House celebrates five years page 9

Dog duo sniff out C. diff

Ronald McDonald House: a home-away-from-home for the Steiger family page 6

also available online at vancourier.com

photo: dan toulgoet

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contents on the cover

Three-year-old Beth Steiger has spent much of her life at Ronald McDonald House. Photo: dan toulgoet



Michelle Bhatti editor

Sandra Thomas sthomas@vancourier.com contributing writers

Vicente Biancardi da Camara John Kurucz Dan Olson creative director

Marina Rockey

For advertising inquiries, contact Michelle Bhatti at mbhatti@vancourier.com

volume 5, number 4, fall 2019 Published by glacier media. Copyright Š2019. All rights reserved. Reproduction of articles permitted with credit. Advertisements in this magazine are coordinated by Glacier Media. Glacier Media does not endorse products or services. Any errors, omissions or opinions found in this magazine should not be attributed to the publisher. The authors, the publisher and the collaborating organizations will not assume any responsibility for commercial loss due to business decisions made based on the information contained in this magazine. Speak with your doctor before acting on any health information contained in this magazine. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without crediting Glacier Media. Printed in Canada. Please recycle.

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Parents find a lifeline at Ronald McDonald House Three-year-old Beth has spent much of her young life at the house, along with her parents and siblings sandra thomas

Ronald McDonald House is here to help House on Heather Street celebrates five years, but is already feeling growing pains sandra thomas

Canine duo uses nose to sniff out C. diff Angus and Dodger have helped reduce C. difficile at Vancouver General Hospital since 2016 Vicente Biancardi da Camara

Making more lungs available for transplant in Vancouver New program aims to bring relief to hospital waiting lists Vicente Biancardi da Camara

Yoga poses to do with your dog And yes, the downward dog is one of them sandra thomas

plant based recipes Tofu replaces dairy in these decadent dishes Sandra Thomas

Tennis for all Future Burnaby tennis centre to be accessible for everyone Dan Olson

Flamenco teacher tackles Parkinson’s disease through dance Oscar Nieto counters balance issues with palmas, jaleos and oles! John Kurucz

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SANDRA THOMAS Editor, Healthier You photo Chung Chow

where can you find healthier you? It's in doctors' offices, walk-in clinics, pharmacies and other community settings — keeping you company by offering stories and insights into health-related issues that matter.

Vancouver’s Ronald McDonald House is truly a ‘place of hope’ During a recent tour of Ronald McDonald House B.C. and Yukon on Heather Street in Vancouver, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many happy kids and parents playing in the sun, lounging in the brightly lit lobby area and playing video games in the teen lounge. What I had been expecting was subdued lighting, hushed voices and a more sombre vibe, especially when you consider the house is full of very sick or injured children and their very anxious and worried parents and caregivers.


But, as CEO Richard Pass explained to me during an interview, Ronald McDonald House “is a place of hope.” And that’s exactly what it felt like as we toured the bright, well-appointed kitchens, LEGO room, fitness centre, teen lounge and “Magic Room.” The Magic Room is not, as it might sound, dedicated to card tricks, but instead is home to an animated, three-dimensional hologram beaver nicknamed “Woody” and his animal friends. The room, created by Vancouver-based H+ Technology, is truly magical and can be transformed from forest to ocean scenes with the wave of a stuffed toy.


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But that’s not to say these parents and caregivers aren’t worried about their critically ill or injured child. As dad Jared Steiger told me, “If you’re going to be anywhere with a sick child, this is the place to be.” You can read about his three-year-old daughter’s life-long battle to survive with underdeveloped kidneys and how much Ronald McDonald House has played a role in keeping the family together during the past several years. Beth recently underwent a kidney transplant and is doing great. Also in this issue of Healthier You, dancer Oscar Nieto describes how he uses flamenco to help with the mobility and cognitive challenges that come with Parkinson’s disease. Then there’s Angus and Dodger, two English springer spaniels that have been trained to sniff out the superbug Clostridium difficile in hospitals and care homes. When Angus and Dodger want to alert their handlers to the scent of C. diff, they’ve been trained to do so without barking, which could be a disturbance in hospitals. You can read about these two game changers — and their apprentice Rudi — in these pages as well. Sandra Thomas editor, healthier you

Chelsea Park has deep roots in East Vancouver New Chelsea Society has been helping to house seniors since 1952 East Vancouver is as well known for its long-time residents as it is its longestablished businesses and mom-andpop shops.

Karen Dupont, manager of Chelsea Park Seniors Supportive Housing Residence on East 19th Avenue, says with its deep roots in the community, Chelsea Park is also an example of commitment to the residents of East Vancouver. “New Chelsea Society has been in the neighborhood housing seniors for 67 years,” Karen says of the organization, which was founded in 1952. Falling under the society’s umbrella, the Chelsea Park residence was purpose built in 2007 to house independent seniors in its 74 suites, while providing hospitality services and supports to its residents. New Chelsea Society was founded through the efforts of members of five branches of the Royal Canadian Legion, who recognized the need for affordable housing for Second World War veterans and their spouses and widows. The residence is also a focal point of the community with

associations with the Trout Lake Community Centre, Cedar Cottage Neighborhood House and the Collingwood Renfrew Seniors dropin center. As well, situated near the bustling atmosphere of Commercial Drive, Chelsea Park is located within walking distance of shopping, dining and public transit, creating a “total community,” for residents — right on their doorstep.

“Our residents come from all walks of life, including teachers, nurses, engineers, construction workers. At Chelsea Park we have many different cultures and people from many different countries,” says Karen.

That community connection is important in keeping seniors interested and engaged. “The goal at Chelsea Park is to enhance and promote individual well-being through program developments, team work and community involvement,” says Karen. The multicultural diversity of this East Vancouver community is also very much embraced by Chelsea Park.

Celebrating those various cultures is so important to staff and residents and events are scheduled in Chelsea Park’s monthly calendar and weekly activities. Karen says one very popular event is the moving Remembrance Day Ceremony held annually — with pipes and drums accompanied by Lorne, one of Chelsea Park’s very own veterans playing the bugle — as well as a service all residents are invited to attend. Karen adds Chelsea Park’s multicultural celebrations include everything from lively Robbie Burns festivities complete with the address to the Haggis to a Canada Day barbecue on the plaza to Chinese New Year and the always fun Oktoberfest. “And everything in between!”

watch the very genuine video: www.newchelsea.ca/about

To learn more about Chelsea Park: visit: www.chelseaparkbc.ca call: 604-789-7132 email: chelseapark@newchelsea.ca 1968 E. 19th Ave., Vancouver, B.C. V5N 5K3


Parents find a lifeline at Ronald Three-year-old Beth has spent much of her young life at the house, along with her parents and siblings Sandra Thomas | editor

Dressed in a purple tank top and pink shorts, her blond ponytails shining in the August sun, threeyear-old Beth Steiger moves between dropping fish food into a tiny pond at Ronald McDonald House on Heather Street and popping Cheerios into her mouth.

trach. But it should be coming out next year.”

“There are a lot of complications that come with bad kidneys,” Beth’s dad Jared Steiger explained. “The tracheotomy is there because her lungs were underdeveloped. Beth got the flu and couldn’t recover, so she got a

The entire Steiger family, including Beth’s older siblings Alandra, 11, Dawson, eight, and Claire, six, had been living at Ronald McDonald

Beth underwent a kidney transplant June 13, just weeks before her third birthday. Knowing since birth that Beth would need a kidney transplant, both Jared and mom Erin Steiger offered to act On occasion, Beth as donor, but it was stopped to admire Jared who went her fingernails, under the knife at “There are a lot painted in a clear St. Paul’s Hospital. coat of sparkles, the of complications Despite Beth’s tiny perfect accessory size, when an adult that come with to the pink glasses donates a kidney bad kidneys.” with flowered arms to a child the entire perched on her tiny organ is removed, nose. Running out so at the time of of fish food, Beth went to plan B this interview, Jared was just two and began sharing her beloved months past the invasive surgery. Cheerios with the hungry orange “Beth’s kidneys were very low and white koi gathered below. functioning so we always knew if The only visible sign of the lifelong she made it, she’d have to have a struggle Beth has gone through to transplant,” said Erin. not only survive, but also to thrive, was the strip of white surgical If she made it? fabric holding a tracheostomy breathing tube in place in the “Before her surgery, Beth spent centre of her throat. 150 days in ICU,” said Erin.


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Three-year-old Beth Steiger and big sister Alandra walk through Ronald McDonald House on Heather Street in Vancouver. Photo: Dan Toulgoet

McDonald House

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The Steiger family, including mom Erin (L), Claire, dad Jared, Beth and Alandra. Eight-year-old Dawson can be seen in the photo below. Photos: Dan Toulgoet

nights at the house. The older Steiger kids had no problem with the lengthy stay.

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House B.C. and Yukon since the beginning of June. But this is not their first stay at the house, which provides accommodation for seriously ill children and their families when they have to be in Vancouver for their child’s major treatment. Beth was just threemonths-old when her health took a dramatic turn for the worse and she was airlifted to B.C. Children’s Hospital after spending the night in hospital in Prince George. While Erin flew with Beth, Jared, a fireman by trade, drove home at 6 a.m. that same day, grabbed the rest of the kids and drove down from Prince George, where the couple moved 12-years ago. “And we didn’t leave for five months,” said Erin. “We just ended up staying [at Ronald McDonald House] the whole time.” Jared explained that when a family arrives because of an emergency situation, the basics, including diapers and toothbrushes, are already in place. The kitchens are also well stocked with plenty of essentials compliments of Saveon-Foods, including eggs, milk and much needed coffee, so parents don’t have to worry about immediately getting to the grocery store after they arrive. Parents at Ronald McDonald House cook the 8

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majority their family’s meals, but there is also a team of volunteers ready to step in and help. “If you have a critically ill child, they cook for you,” said Jared. “You don’t have time to think of that stuff when your kid is in ICU and things are going on.” The couple is more than grateful for the “home-away-from-home” they’ve found at the house. Over the past several years, they’ve gotten to know other parents of sick or injured children and have found much-needed support from staff members of the house. “If you’re going to be anywhere with a sick child, this is the place to be,” said Jared. “And it’s a five minute walk from the hospital so if you need anything, it’s right there.” It’s not just the parents who are cared for. By the time they were set to go home, the family would have been at the house three months. In total, the family has spent 330

“Have you seen the LEGO room?” Dawson asked excitedly. Meanwhile Alandra has been taking part in cooking classes and Claire has been enjoying crafts. The day of the interview, the YMCA was scheduled to arrive and offer activities for the kids. The night before, the Vancouver TheatreSports Improv Comedy Group had been in to entertain the families with some hilarious improv, and the next day, the Steigers, minus Beth and Jared, were off to the Abbotsford International Air Show. Other field trips the family had already enjoyed, included Telus World of Science and Playland. The house also has bikes and helmets that families can sign out, as well as Compass Cards so parents and kids can take transit. Jared describes the house as a lifeline, one they’ll continue to grasp for years to come as they return to the hospital for Beth’s checkups and ongoing tests. He noted it’s the support of other parents that can help families get through tough times. “It’s good to be able to talk to other parents going through similar things,” said Jared. “Families here are going to be changed forever, but when you go back home people empathize with you, but don’t fully understand what we’ve gone through. But a lot of people here, they do understand. You come here and they get it.”

Ronald McDonald House is here to help House on Heather Street celebrates five years, but is already feeling growing pains Sandra Thomas | editor

Richard Pass has a wish list. The chief executive officer of Ronald McDonald House B.C. and Yukon wants another space to better meet the needs of the families of seriously ill or injured children from across B.C. “We’re full all the time,” said Pass, of the Heather Street home. “But we always leave two rooms available because the helicopter lands every night.”

opened in July 2014 and now serves 2,000 families a year.

Pass said staff members are constantly juggling people and rooms in the house, which is why his personal wish list includes the purchase of two lots on Heather Street to build a second house that "This is a would accommodate world-class facility another 73 families.

for families, but I always want to do better and more for them."

Those helicopters land at the adjacent B.C. Children’s Hospital/ B.C. Women’s Hospital and Health Centre carrying patients needing critical care. When that patient is a child, there’s a good chance their parents and caregivers are either already with them or will soon be arriving — and either way will be needing a place to stay. The houses provide accommodation for seriously ill children and their families when they have to be in Vancouver for their child’s major treatment. It’s been more than three decades since the first Ronald McDonald House opened in Vancouver. That facility was a 13-bedroom home in Shaughnessy, but it was quickly determined the need was much greater. In 2013, construction began on a 73-bedroom house located on the grounds of B.C. Children’s Hospital. That house

“Sometimes a family thinks they’re going home, but they don’t. And sometimes they get good news and they do get to go home for the weekend,” said Pass. “Then they’re out of here like a rocket.” The house provides storage for families who will be returning to the house in a week or two, so they don’t have to take everything with them. Families come from across the province from towns and cities from beyond Chilliwack. Pass would like to see that change. “I’d like to see a new space for short-term, local families,” said Pass. “But right now we’re short on space, so have to draw the line. But it would be nice for local families to have a place to come for coffee and get that muchneeded support.” Pass would also like to see an education component added to a new facility. As it sits, sick kids can go to school at the hospital, but their siblings can’t. And with families

sometimes spending months at a time at Ronald McDonald House, that’s a problem. “This is a world-class facility for families, but I always want to do better and more for them,” said Pass. During a tour of the house, Pass shows off an arts and crafts studio, the LEGO room, shared indoor and outdoor spaces, basketball courts, a teen lounge with video games, and a fitness centre. Pass said the fitness centre is well used by parents blowing off stress. The house is divided into four areas, dubbed Beach, Forest, Mountain and River, and each includes private bedrooms and bathrooms, industrial kitchens and laundry facilities. Pass can’t stress enough the need for the vital support and services offered at Ronald McDonald House. “We try and keep a little bit of professional distance, but when things go wrong we’re here to support them because people are here for so long and sometimes it’s the last time they’ll be together as a family,” said Pass. “But in the end, this is a house of hope.”

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Canine duo uses nose to sniff out C. diff Angus and Dodger have helped reduce C. difficile at Vancouver General Hospital since 2016 Vicente Biancardi da Camara | Contributing writer

Since 2016, two English springer spaniels have been helping keep Vancouver hospital patients safe from a particularly nasty germ. It might sound like a children’s movie, but Angus and Dodger — along with their handlers Teresa Zurberg and Jaime Knowles — are basically resident staff at the Vancouver General Hospital where they do regular scans for the superbug Clostridium difficile. Also known as C. diff, the bug is an antibiotic-resistant bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from mild diarrhea to life-threatening colonic inflammations. Although anyone can be affected, the germ is more commonly a problem in people with compromised immune symptoms. This means hospitals can often be a haven for it. C. diff’s relative ubiquity allows it to sneak in hospitals regularly and hide in places that would normally not be checked or cleaned. Which is where Angus and Dodger come in. While it’s difficult to determine the exact precision of their abilities, a study of their results between May 1, 2017 and October 31, 2018 revealed that the persistent pooches searched 659 clinical areas at VGH and “alerted” on C. diff bacteria 391 times. That means they found colonies of the bacteria on 54 per cent of their searches. “During cold and flu season sometimes 10

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we might find C. diff more often than normal, but generally they find C. diff daily,” Zurberg, program lead for the Canine Scent Detection program, said at a press event at VGH. One of the surprising places the dogs discovered the germ was the inside of a toilet paper dispenser. Until Angus stuck his nose inside, the dispenser had only been cleaned on the outside. The discovery of bacteria in these hard-to-reach places has led the hospital to reconsider its cleaning protocols, even changing the design of the dispenser to reduce chances of contamination when people stick their hands inside looking for more paper. Both Angus and Dodger are English springer spaniels, as is Rudi, who is currently going through his training to join the team. It takes about nine months to a year to train the dogs, and they are taught only to identify one scent.

It takes nine months to a year to train English springer spaniels to detect C. diff.

“We use [English springer spaniels] because they’re softer looking dogs — so they’ve got the long floppy ears, they’re cute and not intimidating like a German shepherd or a Malinois, which both Jaime and I used to work for narcotics and explosives,” Zurberg explained. “Plus, these guys are bred to search and hunt, whether it be birds or C. diff, it’s already genetically in them.”

EFFECTIVE FOR JOINT OR TENDON ISSUES THAT HAVE NOT RESPONDED TO TRADITIONAL THERAPY. Thanks to Angus and Dodger, VGH, staff says they’ve seen a significant improvement of the hospital’s ability to combat the spread of C. diff. Photos: Dan Toulgoet

Unlike the image people might have of drug sniffing dogs, Angus and Dodger alert their handlers to the scent of C. diff without barking, which could be a disturbance in hospitals.

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“There’s a change of behaviour. It takes thousands of hours [of experience] for us to be able to tell,” Zurberg said.

“They’re small enough that they can get into complicated work areas...”

Not everyone is so comfortable around dogs, so to avoid any problems, the team stays away from patients. “Our dogs are trained to search the environment. We do not search patients, we do not search staff, we do not search families,” Zurberg said.

In the three years that the program has been operational, staff members say they have seen a significant improvement of the hospital’s ability to combat the spread of the germ thanks to Angus and Dodger. “They’re small enough that they can get into complicated work areas,” Zurberg says. “So if you’re in an ICU where there’s million dollar machines and you have a very sick patient hooked up to that machinery and there’s lines everywhere, the last thing you want is a dog that’s going to get tangled in that.” When Angus or Dodger raise an alert, the area is thoroughly cleaned. A fleet of rapid disinfecting “robots,” which look like inverted stand-up tanning beds, augment the cleaning process by delivering bursts of intense U-V light that eradicate antibioticresistant pathogens.

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Making more lungs available for transplant in Vancouver New program aims to bring relief to hospital waiting lists Vicente Biancardi da Camara | Contributing writer

A new program at Vancouver General Hospital aims to increase the number of lungs available for transplant in British Columbia. Vancouver Coastal Health and B.C. Transplant unveiled the new program, known as Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion, in August. It uses a machine that not only allows lungs to “live” outside the body for up to 12 hours after they’ve been extracted, but also permits the repair and reconditioning of the lungs ahead of the transplant.

While B.C. Transplant says it has been making significant strides in encouraging B.C. residents to register as organ donors, the organs have to be rushed to recipients and are often found to be in nonideal condition. “People who need lung transplants typically have no other options, so being able to utilize more of these priceless organs will save lives,” Dr. John Yee, a lung transplant surgeon with Vancouver Coastal Health and director of the B.C. Lung Transplant Program, said in a press release. One of these people is Cheryl Deyalsingh, who is currently one of 40 B.C. residents waiting for a lung transplant. She has been waiting for more than a year and is hoping suitable organs will be found soon. “It’s my only hope,” Deyalsingh said. “A transplant will give me a new lease on life.” The Ex Vivo system is located at Vancouver General Hospital, which is the only hospital in the province that performs adult lung transplants. The B.C. Lung Transplant Program is one of only four programs of its kind in Canada.

The Ex Vivo system, which was developed in 2001, continually pumps a bloodless mix of oxygen, nutrients and proteins into injured donor lungs, mimicking the healthy human body. A ventilator also inflates the lungs Provincial Health and maintains normal respiration, Services Authority while doctors examine the tissue with fiber optic cameras and treat any infection, blood clots, or fluid accumulation.

Dr. John Yee demonstrates the new Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion system at Vancouver General Hospital. Photo:


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Through the use of Ex Vivo, the number of lung transplants is expected to increase by 20 per cent, rising to a predicted 60 double lung operations for 2019. B.C. Transplant says it believes that the system, in conjunction with Vancouver Coastal Health’s provincial lung program, will reduce deaths on the wait list and improve patient outcomes. This is good news for people like Deyalsingh, who can now — or will be able to soon — breathe a sigh of relief at the prospect of finding a suitable pair of lungs. “I’m looking forward to caring for my grandson and being a whole person again.”

Yoga poses to do with your dog And yes, the downward dog is one of them We’ve all seen the videos. You know, those viral clips of women and men attempting to do yoga while their “helpful” dog gets in on the action, which typically ends in disaster.

down V. This stretch for the back of your legs and spine is a great one for your pup to mimic and stretch out alongside you. They’ll pawsitively love it!

arching and rounding your spine on your hands and knees, while focusing on your breathing. This is a great one to keep treats nearby for your puppy pal.

To, hopefully, help you attempt yoga at home with your best friend that actually works, Bailey Meek, regional operations manager at YYOGA, and Rover.com offered up these four moves to do when you need a little time to “paws and reflect.”

Child’s Pose Find your inner child as you bring your hips to your heels and your forehead to the earth. Let this grounding moment feel playful as you allow your pup to sniff, lick and kiss you while you take a few deep breaths in this resting pose.

Savasana The best for last — this is where you’ll feel the biggest “trans-furmation.” Feel free to sprawl out, lay flat on your back with your pup, take deep, mindful breaths and close your eyes. Your pup might even get a little sleepy and snuggly alongside you. Cherish this moment with your dog and allow that lovely relaxation to float into the rest of your day.

Downward Dog It has its name for a reason. Plant all four of your paws on the ground, take a big breath in and lift up your hips until you become an upside-

Cat-Cow Don’t let the name fool you! Doggos love these dynamic movements that include mindfully

Photo: iStock, Solovyova

Sandra Thomas | editor

Plant baseD Tofu replaces dairy in these decadent dishes Sandra Thomas | editor

On the hunt for some tofu-based recipes, I discovered Sunrise Soya Foods, which not only offered up these deliciously decadent ideas, but they’re also a local company based in Delta, B.C. These recipes are high in protein and dairy free, making them ideal for anyone who is lactose intolerant.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Parfait Ingredients 1/2 pack (454g) Sunrise medium firm tofu, blended 1/3 cup (40 grams) chocolate cookie crumbs 2 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted 1/3 cup (40 grams) bittersweet chocolate chips 1 1/2 tbsp. peanut butter, smooth 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 1 large banana, sliced into coins


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Directions Drain tofu of water. Blend tofu in food processor until smooth. Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in the microwave in 20 second increments on high or on the stove on medium heat in a sauce pan. Add melted mixture, vanilla extract into pureed tofu. Blend until well mixed set aside. (optional: Cover and chill, and combine parfaits when ready to serve) In a medium bowl combine cookie crumbs with melted butter. Sprinkle one tsp. of crumb mixture into four small glasses. Layer with a few slices of banana and 2 tbsp. of chocolate filling. Repeat layers of 1 tsp. of cookie mixture, banana slices and filling. Top with remaining cookie crumbs. Serve immediately.

Spicy Tofu Scramble on Avocado Toast This tofu scramble stores in the fridge for three to four days and can be reheated in a microwave. Serves four to six.

Ingredients 1 pack (454g) Sunrise Medium Firm Tofu, dried and crumbled 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil 1 medium tomato, cut into chunks 1 clove fresh garlic, finely chopped 1 red finger chili chopped 3 whole spring onions, chopped 1/2 tsp. turmeric 3 avocados, mashed 6 slices sprouted grain bread Micro sprouts of your choice for garnish Salt and pepper to taste Directions Remove tofu from package, wrap in three to four sheets of paper towel, put on a large plate and place a heavy pan or bowl on top to squeeze out any excess moisture. After 10 minutes, change the paper towel and repeat, drying out the tofu as much as possible. Using a fork, crumble tofu to resemble scrambled egg and set aside. In a large fry pan on medium heat, add oil, onions, tomatoes, chili and garlic. Sautee until tender, then add crumbled tofu and toss gently. Add turmeric and salt and pepper. Correct seasoning to taste. Place bread into a toaster and while you wait, mash up the avocados. Divide avocado between the four slices of toast, spreading evenly. Top with Spicy Tofu Scramble and sprinkle with your favorite micro sprouts before serving.

Health is where we live, learn, work and play.

to be part of our next edition, please contact anthony Pan at 604-562-3354 or apan@glaciermedia.ca extending your reach with

Tennis for all Future Burnaby tennis centre to be accessible for everyone Dan Olson | CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The August announcement that plans are on schedule regarding the creation of the Western Canada Tennis Training Centre in Burnaby was welcomed by many.

“As far as [wheelchair] tennis is concerned, this will be the first [national centre],” said Schrameyer. “It’s super. It’s clearly a pilot project and I’m hoping there will be others to follow — this will set the standard. B.C. is already a hotbed for wheelchair tennis, and players from other provinces who want to expand and improve on their game will want to move to the Lower Mainland.” Schrameyer, a three-time Paralympian medallist for his native Germany who recently received his Canadian citizenship, is the national team coach. Seeing his sport included in a major project like the Burnaby centre is something that should pay dividends down the road.

Officials at the event spoke of the many benefits the centre will bring, with the citizens of Burnaby among Photo: Burnaby Now the big winners. Another group thrilled to see the proposal continue are wheelchair tennis proponents, who will see the emergence of a work space to call their own. One of the projected tenants of the centre will be the national wheelchair tennis program, alongside a western Canada junior tennis training centre.

Wheelchair tennis players will be among the many who benefit from the planned Western Canada training centre, slated for Burnaby Lake.

For Kai Schrameyer, having space dedicated to wheelchair tennis and the national program can only be a boon for the competitive and recreational player alike. 16

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“It’s only been around for 40 years, which in comparison to able-bodied tennis is a short time, and it’s growing,” he said. “There are about 150, 160 players in Canada, there are tournaments year-round [and] some are professionals, so it’s a healthy development.” Tennis Canada president Michael Downey believes a focal point for players to come and work together, just as the Western Canada junior component, will enhance an already strong climate for the sport.

The facility, with construction slated to begin in 2021, will increase the current Burnaby Tennis Club site to 24 courts, including 12 indoor courts, with both clay and hardcourt surfaces. “We’re in constant communication with my colleagues at Tennis Canada. Once the planning stage comes, we’ll make sure that certain details like a certain door width, we need parking spots that are accessible, those kinds of things. The whole thing should be seamlessly accessible from the early stages on,” said Schrameyer. And while the view that wheelchair tennis will have its own place at the centre is pretty exciting, Schrameyer points out that having all the components in one large, united site will be beneficial for everyone. “These guys can play amongst themselves but they could also [play] with ablebodied players,” he said. “I could put Genie [Bouchard] and Rebecca [Marino] on the court with these guys and they could hit balls. It’s a great project all around for integration for people of disabilities.”

Flamenco teacher tackles Parkinson’s disease through Oscar Nieto counters balance issues with palmas, jaleos and oles!


John Kurucz | Contributing writer

Oscar Nieto has done a lot clapping over five decades. That’s job number one when you’re a flamenco instructor: you clap in your sleep, clap in the shower and clap while eating. Known as “palmas” in the flamenco world, clapping is the foundation of everything that follows musically, rhythmically and kinetically. When clapping became a problem for Nieto eight years ago, he knew something was up. One side of his body worked and the other became “kind of dumb.”

Nieto was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s in 2016 and, like anyone else facing hard times, he had two choices: sink or swim. Nieto chose to swim. And clap. The longtime Vancouverite debuted his first flamenco classes for those living with Parkinson’s in August at the Vancouver Tap Dance Society studio in East Vancouver. “I can’t do what I used to be able to do,” said Nieto, 72. “And that’s OK.” But how does such a rhythmically challenging, physically involved art form work for those with mobility and cognitive challenges? Enter “jaleos,” the chants and shouts of encouragement that dancers use to cut a rug.

Oscar Nieto uses flamenco to help with the mobility and cognitive challenges that come with Parkinson’s disease. Photo: Jennifer Gauthier

“At first, I attributed it to nerves,” said Nieto. “But looking back in retrospect, it wasn’t nerves. It was the beginning of the balance issues.”

Nieto would soon learn that loss of balance, tremors and vocal issues are all red flags associated with the onset of Parkinson’s disease. 18

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“I observe a lot, so you can get signals on people depending on their reactions, especially when I start shouting the jaleos like ‘ole!’” Nieto said. “I start quietly and then we get louder and louder. By the time we finish with that, they’re laughing and they’re having a good time.” While jaleos are the icebreaker, there are other workarounds to help the would-be dancers. For starters, all classes begin with participants in a seated position. The focus is on hand and leg movements,

and choreographed clapping and stomping, to stimulate both sides of the brain. Vocal training also enters the picture before the final portion of the class, when participants are given the option to stand and apply what they’ve just learned. “As my disease progresses there are issues that have come up: voice, thought processes, anxiety,” Nieto said. “So as this happens, I am my own guinea pig.” Being open about his condition wasn’t an automatic upon Nieto’s initial diagnosis. He withdrew from flamenco and certain social settings as he came to grips with his new life. Not being able to clap as a flamenco dancer is akin to a fish not being able to swim. Nieto suggests the disease is progressing more slowly in him than others, due in large part to the active lifestyle he’s led. He doubles down on aspects of flamenco that present challenges, so as to face them head on. “I said; To hell with this frustration,’” Nieto said. “We have choices and I made the choice to work around it. Rather than back off, I purposely will work harder at keeping the clapping going. Even if it’s frustrating, I realize that if don’t use it, I lose it. So I encourage this to people in the class as well.”

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Healthier You Fall 2019  

Healthier You Fall 2019