Progress in 2014

2014 was a good year… now cheers to 2015!

I wanted to highlight a few successes that some of my clients had in 2014:

K. received a new dynamic ankle brace and is now walking more than ever.  He reports that he can feel the muscles in his weak leg getting stronger, and he can walk over uneven ground, up /down stairs easily and finally can say that he enjoys walking again.

C. is using her fingers again!  Not quite two years post stroke and she is able to use her hand to help her with all kinds of daily activities.  She has returned to work full-time and has also gotten back in the routine of being “mom” in her family now. It was hard having her daughter and husband take care of the baby, but she is back. This year, is dedicated to fine motor control in those fingers!

E. became independent in transferring into the shower, is driving his own van, and is learning to walk again.  Not bad for someone who is not even three years post injury to his cervical spinal cord.  No need for an electric chair because he can push himself in his new lightweight chair and feels he is getting stronger (below the level of lesion) every day.

S. returned to work full time, is using her right hand for typing and is talking up a storm!  She and her family have fought hard.  Still a ways to go until this young woman feels satisfied with her recovery, but I have no doubt she will get there.

M. barely survived his stroke, but he is getting better every day.  He can stand independently, transfer for showers and walk short distances.  Mostly delayed now by distorted vision that makes it hard to move, but he is having a surgical procedure this week that hopes to improve his vision.

Just a few successes.  Would love to hear from others about the Highs, Lows, and Plateaus of recovery.

Cheers to 2015!

Focus should be on “partially complete” versus “incomplete”

Rehab gyms across the country, such as SciFit and ProjectWalk are changing the scope of recovery following spinal cord injury and stroke. Rather than focusing on the deficits and problems left by the injury, their focus is on the potential for neuroplasticity and learning within the human central nervous system. Movement recovery depends on a demand for use. Rehab professionals should embrace a change from speaking of the negative “incomplete” and focusing on the positive “partially complete”. This is the only way we can change the dialogue around recovery.

I would love to hear from survivors who have continued to improve and reach their goals despite a negative prediction set by many health care providers.

The dismissive health care professional

I often think about why some health care professionals are so negative.  They say things like, “he will never walk again”, “that patient is non-compliant and never does their home exercises”, “the family is just wasting money on rehab”.

I believe in offering hope through education.  Maybe that patient can’t walk today, but we do not know what kind of technological advances the future holds.  It is important to continue to exercise to maintain bone density, muscle mass, muscle and joint range of motion.  I have a client who spent 11 years in his wheelchair.  But, he continued to exercise at the Adaptive Physical Education program at the local college and he continued to go to pool therapy every week.  Last spring, he walked across the Golden Gate Bridge!  At last, technology had provided a tool for him.

I think that people want to be compliant with their home exercise program.  But sometimes, they do not have the thought processes that enable them to be independent in initiating and completing exercises.  Sometimes the home environment is so full of other stresses and worries that exercises is the last thing on their list.  Once, I had a client who NEVER did his home program.  He did go to the gym, but did not do the exercises correctly.  After much frustration, we decided to have him get a Neuro-psych eval.  His stroke had affected his ability to initiate and follow-through on tasks.  Physical rehab was put on hold while he worked on his cognitive rehab!!  Everything in the proper order.

Money, somehow it always seems to get spent.  How it is spent is a personal decision. A rehabilitation professional has an obligation to present their patient/client with options.  It is the survivors decision how to use their money toward those options.  Many years ago, I worked with a family who insisted on a particular piece of equipment for the mom in the family.  I thought it was too expensive and her prognosis was not good.  She had a tumor.  Insurance denied payment, so the family decided to pay out of pocket.  They never regretted that decision, because it provided freedom and independence and allowed her to be engaged with her family for several months.

I have started telling people to find a doctor /therapist/ trainer who believes in them!  It is OK to change doctors, change therapists… Also, we know that individuals and their families need to stay proactive and continue to look for new devices, new therapies and changes in rehab.  Neurological rehab is VERY dynamic right now.  Things are changing quickly.

My video talks a little bit about this.  Would love to hear what you think or tools that you have used.