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Whole Health

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Stepping into a new life

Recreation Therapist leads a Veteran through Tai Chi exercise.

U.S. Army Veteran Bill Seelaus (right) performs Tai Chi with instructor Ellen Barnes (left), Recreation Therapist, on April 11 at the Coatesville VA Medical Center. This beginner Tai Chi for Arthritis class is part of his personal health care plan developed using the Whole Health model of care.

By Michael Hamill, Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Air Force Retired
Thursday, June 22, 2023

Walking away from a civil service job as a heavy equipment operator in Tacoma, WA, U.S Army Veteran Bill Seelaus ended up in the desert where he said he took the first step on his Whole Health journey.

“I walked out into the desert of Utah and lived on water for 27 ½ days. One day I got up and I said, ‘this is the day that I’m either gonna get help or I'm gonna die.’”

That day he took a small step toward living and has continued to take small steps that, over the last 18 years, have carried him through overcoming his homelessness, addiction, and mental health issues.

Small steps led him to Tai Chi
Completing the beginner’s Tai Chi for Arthritis class offered by recreation therapy at the 
Coatesville VA Medical Center is just one of many steps in Seelaus’ journey that started in 2006 back in the desert long before he knew anything about Whole Health.

Taking part in activities like Tai Chi contributes to Veterans’ Whole Health because it helps with energy, flexibility in motion, relaxes and heals the mind, and encourages personal development.

“Whole Health care planning allows each person to discover their own mission, aspiration, and purpose,” said Angela Shaffner, Whole Health Program Manager for Coatesville VA. “The idea is to inspire commitment from the Veteran to their own health and well-being.”

Finding inspiration
After trying, failing, and restarting many times, Seelaus’ efforts to build a productive life, began to take hold in 2016. An assignment from his mental health provider helped him to discover something that mattered to him, something that inspired him to improve his health. Seelaus found value in helping fellow Veterans.

“What I learned from being in service is there is always that soldier who is looking at you to help him figure things out. That’s why I live. That’s where I am.”

A really good feeling
Seelaus identified two reasons to ‘be better.’ The first was that there are other Veterans out there counting on him to help them figure things out. His second reason was that he didn’t want to be a burden to his family any longer. 

“The relationship with my family is much better because they don’t have to be concerned for my well-being all the time and that feels really good.”

Coatesville VA's Whole Health approach connects a network of healthcare resources allowing Seelaus to access homeless Veteran programs, primary care, specialty care, mental health, nutrition, and fitness programs. 

Whole Health supports health and well-being for Veterans and centers care around what matters to the Veteran by putting each person at the center of their own health care. Learn more about Whole Health care at a VA health care facility near you, use the Whole Health Locator Tool, to connect with a Whole Health specialist.


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