Overcast, 63°
Weather sponsored by:

Orange Park teen gets Wellness Pod from Planet Fitness

Chair promotes relaxation, muscle memory for girl with Rett’s Syndrome

Posted 12/31/69

ORANGE PARK – Life was made easier last week for Sophia Archuleta, a 14-year-old girl from Orange Park living with Rett Syndrome when Orange Park Planet Fitness got into the holiday spirit by …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for subscribing.

Single day pass

You also have the option of purchasing 24 hours of access, for $1.00. Click here to purchase a single day pass.

Orange Park teen gets Wellness Pod from Planet Fitness

Chair promotes relaxation, muscle memory for girl with Rett’s Syndrome


Posted

ORANGE PARK – Life was made easier last week for Sophia Archuleta, a 14-year-old girl from Orange Park living with Rett Syndrome when Orange Park Planet Fitness got into the holiday spirit by donating equipment to improve her health, wellness and quality of life.

Created by WellnessSpace Brands, the Wellness Pod has magical powers to promote relaxation, reduce stress and advance muscle memory by placing her feet above her head to encourage back and spine support. The pod was hand-delivered to Sophia’s mother’s home. Along with Brandi Archuleta and Planet Fitness Member Service Representative Wendy Santiago, the women quickly became part of Sophia’s treatment.

While she has trouble walking and performing other daily tasks, that doesn’t stop Sophia from enjoying life. She rode her adaptive bicycle with her mother and went surfing last summer with a group of volunteers. Anything is possible for the little girl, who frequents the gym with her mother.
“We don’t let (Rett’s Syndrome) stop or define her,” the mother said.
Rett’s Syndrome is a genetic disorder that can cause severe anxiety, seizures and other complications. Her mother takes care of her around the clock, and she remains vigilant if there are problems associated with the disease that attack the nervous system.
The Wellness Pod has already been proven to help.
“It has factually (proven) to slow down her seizures. They’re not as long and not as abrasive. It hasn’t even been a week yet,” Brandi said. In less than two weeks, the Wellness Pod has created a monumental impact on her daughter’s well-being.

They originally discovered the Wellness Pod at Planet Fitness at 700 Blanding Blvd.

“When (Archuleta) told me about her daughter, I said, ‘You know what, I’ve got something special for you. She had never seen (the Wellness Pod) before. It’s not something you would (regularly) think about,” Santiago said.
When Sophia tried the device at Planet Fitness, she said the impact was immediate.
I said, ‘Bring her over, let’s just see what happens. Immediately, (Sophia) started to talk and open up. Her eyes twinkled, and you could see that she was clearly engaged with the experience,” Santiago said.
When the Archuletas started making daily pilgrimages to the gym, Santiago knew she needed to take action.
“I got in touch with (WellnessSpace) and said, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ Lo and behold, to my surprise, they sent Brandi a message in an email and said, ‘We’re going to donate one (to your daughter),’” she said.
The company, based in Clearwater, delivered the Wellness Pod and assembled it inside their Orange Park home. “They put it right where she wanted it. She was so excited to see the gift, her favorite thing that keeps her calm,” Santiago said.
Santiago and Brandi were friends before the process started. Now, they have forged a sisterhood during the journey. The full circle moment came when it all came together.

“We both just started to cry,” Santiago said.
When watching the screen, Sophia enters another world. It displays 15 natural scenes, like a tropical beach, a starry galaxy, a blue ocean with fish, and several major tourist destination cities.
“This is meant to hit all five of your senses. This is set up to embrace that. What you are perceiving with your eyes and ears, your mind is telling you, ‘It’s time to turn off and just relax,” Santiago explained.
The heat from the pod penetrates her back, which has already improved her flexibility and range of motion. And if Sophia isn’t practicing peace of mind, she can watch interactive educational videos, like on how to cook. The activities help her to learn, grow and thrive.
“Just one hour for her to relax and know that everything is going to be OK is so worth it for both of them. If you spend one day in Brandi’s shoes (taking care of Sophia), you still would not understand the full impact of what she goes through,” Santiago said.
Brandi exercises at Planet Fitness so she can lift her daughter out of bed, along with showers to bathe.
“My job is providing her full care and giving her my everything. The gym is my oasis, my church and my therapy. If I didn’t work out, I wouldn’t be strong enough to lift her,” she said.
The posture of Sophia’s head and neck has already begun to improve.
“In the morning and before school, and when we get home, (the Wellness Pod) is our ritual,” Brandi said. Even when she had a seizure at school, her mother rushed to campus and showed Sophia a video of herself in the wellness pod, which eased her frantic state of mind. “She just started smiling. I still can’t believe this happened,” she said.
Sophia sometimes has seizure on a nightly basis, but on two nights during their first week with the Wellness Pod, she rested quietly. It’s all thanks to Santiago and Planet Fitness.