For years, April Sullivan used her skills as a physical therapist to help relieve pain in people recovering from injuries. But after seeing many patients whose chronic pain and stress weren’t relieved through traditional means, she decided to explore something new.
The “something new” is the holistic healing, treatment, and relaxation that Sullivan and her staff provide at Rest Wellness Center and Day Spa. Sullivan opened the sparkling, innovative facility on Ben Richey Drive in March 2018. Today, business is booming.
“We’re so busy, we can hardly keep up,” Sullivan said.
Not even the COVID-19 shutdown that affected so many businesses in the spring could knock out Sullivan’s business. For a couple of months, the center was open half-days to provide the wellness part of the business, while the spa services ceased temporarily. When the entire center reopened, with all services available, it was booming business as usual.
“It picked up like it never shut down,” Sullivan said.
That means that from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, the place is hopping. When the spa first opened, Sullivan did “anything and everything” required to get a new business up and running. That included being at the front desk to welcome clients and sign them in, checking supplies to see what needed to be ordered, or providing one of the services the center offers.
More recently, Sullivan cut back her hours, arriving at 9 a.m. and leaving at 2:30 p.m. to pick up her children at Jim Ned schools. A typical day begins with a one-hour followup with a client to see if treatments are doing the job intended, followed by a one-hour initial consultation, something that is required with new clients. A one hour meeting might follow and then another hour-long followup. And then Sullivan may be found in a treatment room – something she loves to do to maintain some of the hands-on experience she enjoyed as a physical therapist. Sullivan’s 9-2:30 schedule is so packed that it normally doesn’t allow for a lunch break.
A favorite hands-on treatment for Sullivan is assisted lymphatic therapy or ALT. She recently performed the treatment on an employee, Gabby Zullo, who has worked at the center long enough to know what all is available and how it all works.
“I’ve done pretty much everything,” she said.
For the ALT, Zullo lay on a massage table, her long hair draped over her head as she faced the floor. The purpose of the treatment is to stimulate the lymph system so that congestion is broken up, making it easier for the body to eliminate. Sullivan picked up two wands, one in each hand, to begin the treatment. The wands are attached to a machine that sends light and electrical waves through the clear bulbs at the end of each wand. The waves cause a slight calming and soothing vibration that breaks up the congestion.
ALT is one of many of the wellness services provided by Rest Wellness Center. Other options range from professional grade supplements to IV therapy such as Vitamin C, ultraviolet and ozone IV, and the Myers Cocktail, a mix of B12, B complex, vitamin C, zinc, calcium and magnesium. Some of Sullivan’s clients are cancer patients, but Sullivan said the center does not claim that its treatments cure cancer. A complete list of traditional spa services and wellness options, plus prices, is available on the center’s website, www.restwellness.com.
Sullivan grew up near Granbury and came to Abilene to attend Hardin-Simmons University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in 2002, followed by a doctor of physical therapy degree from HSU. April’s husband, Shawn Sullivan, is a physical therapy assistant. For many years, April, too, practiced physical therapy until the desire for a different kind of treatment set in. That’s when she began learning about functional medicine and health coaching. Her website describes functional medicine as “a holistic, patient-centered, collaborative approach to healthcare.” A health coach is described as “a supportive mentor and wellness authority who helps others feel their best through individualized food and lifestyle changes that meet their unique needs and health goals.”
After investigating those fields, Sullivan got her training online through the Kresser Institute for Functional and Evolutionary Medicine, which was founded in 2015 by Chris Kresser, a clinician and educator. The institute provides training but not certification in those fields. Sullivan has been accepted into the Institute for Functional Medicine, which does offer certification. IFM was founded in 1991 by Jeffrey and Susan Bland.
After much research and training, Sullivan took the plunge and built Rest Wellness Center and Day Spa. The building is immaculate and gleaming, featuring a decor of modern steel, and glass.
The building also is strangely quiet, enhancing the concepts of rest and wellness.
In one room, a client might be enjoying the benefits of halotherapy, which features pharmaceutical grade salt pumped into the air. The treatment is touted as beneficial for treating respiratory and skin diseases. Another popular salt treatment is flotation therapy, which features a tub filled with water that is saltier than the Dead Sea, said Alicia Kershner, operations manager.
“It’s like an Epsom Salt bath but on steroids,” she said.
Another popular wellness treatment is the full-spectrum infrared sauna. The dry sauna has no humidity. Instead, heat lamps saturate the body with near, mid, and far infrared rays–the full spectrum. The treatment is touted as being beneficial to weight loss, relaxation, improving circulation, and relieving pain.
The wellness options at Rest Wellness Center and Day Spa are extremely popular with people from all walks of life–men and women. But the traditional spa features are equally popular. In fact, the array of massage offerings are so popular that getting an appointment can be difficult.
“We’re still turning people down every day,” Sullivan said.
The center’s website lists twelve different kinds of massages, among them deep tissue, sports, prenatal, rain drop, lymphedema, hot stone, and couples massage.
Equally as popular are the esthetician services, which include a skin analysis and consultation. A variety of facial treatments, plus a “back facial,” waxing and sugaring hair removal, and eyelash lift and tint are offered. A 30-minute beard facial focuses on the skin underneath the beard and features steam with hot towels, cleansing, toning, exfoliating, and nourishing with beard oil.
April Sullivan loved her years as a physical therapist and now loves the help she can offer people beyond traditional medicine. In a previous interview, Sullivan said she could see the underlying issues her physical therapy patients faced, but she was frustrated because she couldn’t treat everything. That’s when she and her husband, Shawn, started talking about functional medicine. A friend approached them about starting a wellness center and that idea took root. Underlying the couple’s decisions has been a belief in God’s plan.
“For us, this has been just as much spiritual growth as anything, waiting on God’s timing and discovering that his timing is perfect,” April said. “His provision has been amazing.”