An Orange Park teenager receives a Wellness Pod from Planet Fitness

ORANGE PARK – Life was made easier last week for Sofia Archuleta, a 14-year-old Orange Park girl 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. life .

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

Although she has problems walking and performing other daily tasks, this does not prevent Sofia from enjoying life. She rode her adaptive bike with her mom and went surfing last summer with a group of volunteers. Anything is possible for the little girl who often visits the gym with her mother.

“We don’t let (Rett syndrome) stop her or define her,” the mother said.

Rett 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 alert if there are problems related to the disease that attacks the nervous system.

The Wellness Pod is already proven to help.

“It’s actually (proven) to slow down her seizures. They are not as long and they are not as abrasive. It hasn’t even been a week yet,” Brandi said. In less than two weeks, the Wellness Pod made a huge impact on her daughter’s well-being.

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

“When (Arhuleta) told me about her daughter, I said, ‘You know what, I have something special for you.’ She had never seen a (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 in, let’s see what happens. Immediately (Sofia) began to speak and open up. Her eyes were shining and you could see that she was clearly engaged in the experience,” Santiago said.

When the Archuletas began making daily pilgrimages to the gym, Santiago knew he had to take action.

“I contacted (WellnessSpace) and said, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ Lo and behold, to my surprise, they emailed Brandi and said, ‘We’re going to donate one (to your daughter),'” she said.

The Clearwater-based company supplied the Wellness Pod and assembled it at their home in Orange Park. “They put it exactly 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 trial began. They have now formed a sisterhood along the journey. The full circle moment came when everything came together.

“We both just started crying,” Santiago said.

Looking at the screen, Sofia enters another world. It shows 15 nature scenes, such as a tropical beach, a starry galaxy, a blue ocean with fish, and several major tourist destinations.

“This is meant to hit all five of your senses. This is set to accept this. What you perceive with your eyes and ears, your mind says, “It’s time to switch off and just relax,” Santiago explained.

The heat from the capsule penetrates her back, which has already improved her flexibility and range of motion. And if Sophia isn’t practicing calmness, she can watch interactive educational videos like how to cook. Activities help her learn, grow and thrive.

“Just an hour to relax and know everything is going to be okay is worth it for both of us.” If you spend a day in Brandi’s shoes (taking care of Sofia), you still don’t understand the full impact of what she’s going through,” Santiago said.

Brandi works out at Planet Fitness so she can get her daughter out of bed, complete with showers.

“It’s my job to make sure she’s fully cared for and to give her my best.” The gym is my oasis, my church and my therapy. If I didn’t train, I wouldn’t be strong enough to lift it,” she said.

Sofia’s head and neck posture has already started to improve.

“In the morning and before school and when we get home, (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, easing her frantic state of mind. “She just started smiling. I still can’t believe this happened,” she said.

Sophia sometimes has seizures every night, but two nights into their first week with the Wellness Pod, she rested quietly. It’s all thanks to Santiago and Planet Fitness.

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