Interview with Tailwind Engineer Paul Caron

January 22nd, 2012
  1. What do you like about working at Encore Path?

Working at Encore Path provides a sense of fulfillment. I have worked for over 30 years in the medical product development field and it has always been rewarding knowing that
people have benefited medically from the devices I have designed and/or
assisted in the design of. What makes working at Encore Path special is the joy
you see when you speak to stroke survivors that have benefited from the
Tailwind Device and the hope it brings to patients just starting their therapy.

  1. What were your first impressions of the Tailwind? (when you first heard what it was)

Quite honestly, my first impression was surprise, surprise that such a device could be effective. It
seems so simple to look at and the audible metronome seems nothing more than a
device to provide a cadence for the exercise. It was not until doing some
research that I understood that the simplicity of the motion was actually
necessary because the stroke survivors initially can’t control their arms
to do more and that the audible cuing assisted in the reconstruction of the
neural networks in the brain.

  1. What about Encore Path/Tailwind makes you feel proud?

I think what makes me feel the most proud about having worked on the Tailwind project is having heard from a number of Tailwind users how the device has changed their lives for the better
and knowing that I, in a small way, contributed to that success.

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Younger People Having Strokes

January 6th, 2012

Five years ago, my elderly father stayed up all night on New
Year’s Eve – not for a party, but because my 39-year-old brother had had a
stroke. He was out with friends and became completely paralyzed, unable to
speak or move. His friends rushed him to a hospital and he survived, but he
learned that night that he had a risk factor for stroke. What he didn’t know
was that four years later, he would have another one.

No one ever expects a stroke in someone so young. But the
same risk factors that lead to stroke in older adults—high cholesterol,
obesity, diabetes—are now affecting our youth and young adults. Stroke remains
the leading cause of adult disability in the United States; stroke rates among
people under age 44 have tripled in the last decade, according to a new study
from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Before 1995, 45 of every 100,000 people under age 45 had a stroke. Now it’s 75 of
every 100,000 – and this upward trend shows no signs abating. Younger stroke
victims report worse access to physician care, largely due to lack of health
insurance. And poor care has the potential to lead to devastating
outcomes—working age adults who have become disabled.

I know a lot about this trend, because I sell a
device for arm rehabilitation for stroke survivors. My most recent customers
were a 40-year-old surgeon and a 35-year-old business man, both of whom never
expected to have a stroke, and neither did their parents.

Many of these strokes are caused by behaviors that start in childhood. Consider this:
32% of children under 19 are overweight or obese – that’s 23 million
children
. Nearly 20% of high school children report current tobacco use.
Only 37% of children get regular physical exercise.

How old are their arteries? A recent study of children
with risk factors of obesity and high cholesterol revealed that while the
average age of the study group was 13, the average age of their carotid
arteries (arteries that supply blood to the brain) was 45 – their arteries were
30 years older than they were.

Who is to blame? Parents who don’t teach good eating
habits? Schools that eliminate recess and cut sports when the budget is tight?
Tobacco and soft drink companies who create child-friendly marketing? Our
highly interactive yet sedentary lifestyles? Maybe a combination of all of
them?

October 29 was World Stroke Day, designed to call attention to this devastating illness. But
far from being an issue that just afflicts our parents, stroke can affect our
children and young adults – and it belongs front and center on the agenda for
every American family. We can’t control school budgets and corporate marketing,
but we can talk about these habits and raise our awareness of them at home and
in our communities. Many of these risk factors can be mitigated. Healthy
behaviors can be taught, they can be learned. But only if we raise them to the
level of our other family health issues – flu shots? Check. Regular
checkups?  Check.  Dental visits? Check.  Weight control and
regular exercise? Check.

Stroke costs all of us. The direct costs (medications,
hospitals) and indirect costs (lost productivity) add up to about $41 billion
per year. Cardiovascular disease and stroke accounted for 15% of total health
expenditures in 2007 – higher than cancer.

My brother survived both strokes, and he is closely watched by his health care
provider. His risk factor is related to a congenital heart defect, but he can
monitor his behavior and limit his chances of suffering a third stroke.

We need to talk about this, all the time, everywhere and
every day. What did you feed your children for breakfast? What foods will they
choose for lunch? What kind of physical activity will they engage in today?
Does anyone in the household smoke? Are your children healthy enough to outlive
you?

2 Responses to “Younger People Having Strokes”

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Five Year Anniversary

January 5th, 2012

I founded this company, Encore Path, Inc., just over 5 years ago. At that time, I had a prototype device, a little bit of money, and a ton of hope. I had wanted to grow a company that focused on building high-quality, clinically proven, at-home devices for stroke rehabilitation. Am I on my way?

It took over 2 years to bring the Tailwind to market – to launch it for sale. The Tailwind was born in the late 1990′s out of new research into how the brain re-organizes itself after a stroke or other brain injury. It took nearly  10 years of development and testing before I discovered it and finished the commercialization process, redesigning it, manufacturing it, and then launching it. Since we started selling the Tailwind, we have sold hundreds all over the world, bringing hope and improved arm function to stroke and brain injury suvivors.

We are pleased with the success of the Tailwind so far, but we have a long way to go. With nearly 6 million stroke survivors in the United States — and millions more worldwide — we need to grow to survive. We hope 2012 brings wonderful things for our readers, our customers, our friends, and for our company. Best wishes.

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A Valuable Lesson in Ability

December 2nd, 2011

I started this company almost 5 years ago, and in that time I have met with hundreds of stroke and brain injury survivors all over the world. I’ve talked to hundreds more over the phone who have called to ask about the Tailwind for arm rehabilitation. I have learned a lot about stroke and especially about limitations to arm use. My own brother has had two strokes recently. I have never had a stroke, though.

This week I was intoduced to the problem of limited arm mobility, and it has been an eye-opening experience. I broke my right arm. I am right-handed, and extremely so — very little capability with my left arm and hand. As I sit here slowly typing this with 2 fingers of my left hand, I am understanding–in only a simple way–what it means to have limited arm movement.

I have great difficulty brushing my teeth, getting dressed, opening medicine bottles…and everything else. It is frustrating and annoying and sometimes depressing. Combined with additional effects of stroke, the problem of limited arm movement must be magnified for survivors. I know that I will heal. But I have a renewed commitment to do my best to help stroke and brain injury survivors improve their lives by increasing their arm function.

One Response to “A Valuable Lesson in Ability”

  1. Do you care if I quote your article on my Self Help Forum? I think your writing would suit my readers perfectly. Well ya, thanks for posting this article.

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Win a Copy of Mark McEwen’s Book About his Stroke

November 28th, 2011

Often it’s encouraging to read positive stories about people who are going through
what you’re going through. One of the best books written by a stroke survivor
is Mark McEwen’s After the Stroke, my Journey Back to Life. You may
remember Mark, he was the weatherman and a newscaster on the CBS Morning Show
for 6 years. After he left CBS, he become the nighttime TV news anchor at a TV
station in Orlando, Florida. One day, while visiting family in Maryland, Mark
fell sick and was told by a doctor he had the flu. He got on the plane to fly
home, and suffered a stroke in flight.

The book details Mark’s recovery journey, from his early days in the hospital to
his trip to China to try acupuncture. I especially like that he talks very
personally about his stroke, including the reactions of his young children, and
his first attempts to reconnect sexually with his wife. Mark’s journey was
typical – lots of  ups and downs, but he describes it with humor and
sincerity.

Encore Path would like to send a copy of his book to a stroke survivor who wants to
read an uplifting story. To enter our drawing, just fill out our “contact us”
form and include your name and address, and put the word ‘book’ in the comments
section. http://www.tailwindtherapy.com/order-tailwind/index.php
Read more about Mark here: http://www.markmcewen.com/

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Tailwind and Veterans

November 15th, 2011

Last Friday, 11/11/11, I had the privilege of joining some Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans on Radio Station KOA850 in Denver, Colorado, to talk about health care issues affecting veterans. The very active veteran’s groups in Colorado (including VFW Post #1 – the very first VFW post in the nation!) are doing great things to advance veteran’s healthcare causes.

One new group is called Operation TBI Freedom, which is a comprehensive case management program to help veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and their families wade through the healthcare system to get the treatement and services they need. You can find them at www.OperationTBIFreedom.org. The other program is a terrific suicide prevention program for veterans – you can find out more about that at www.vfwpost1.org.

I was able to talk about how the Tailwind is helping veterans with TBI at various military and civilian hospitals around the country. In addition, I announced a new program for veterans that will be available around the first of the new year, in which veterans who need the Tailwind for arm rehabilitation can order one FOR FREE at their local veteran’s hospital. More to come on that….

In all, I was honored and thrilled to be included in this on-air discussion of this important issue. Thanks to KOA850 for inviting me!

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100 Years of Chevrolet – Can Tailwind last that long?

November 3rd, 2011

Chevrolet was founded 100 years ago today. I  grew up not far from Detroit. My parents and grandparents retired from General Motors. We always drove a Chevrolet, but later in my life my grandfather bought a Buick. My family was shocked when I bought a Toyota, but I sold in in 2007 and used the money to start this business.

Longevity in business is an anomaly.  Even longevity in a product line is rare – but is it valued? Do people still think of Chevrolet today like they did in 1911? When we were designing the Tailwind, we wanted to build something sturdy and long-lasting. It takes a long time to recover from a stroke, sometimes months, sometimes years. We knew that people might use the Tailwind for an extended period of time, so we used steel rods and solid steel bearings to make sure it wouldn’t wear out.

I don’t know if the company or the device will be here in a hundred years, but we plan to make sure the Tailwind will last for as long as a stroke survivor wants to use it. I am proud of the Tailwind, of its design and construction. I think my grandparents would be proud.

One Response to “100 Years of Chevrolet – Can Tailwind last that long?”

  1. Mark Chadwick says:

    Good post Kris

    I am sure all your family is proud of what you have done for stroke survivors around the world.

    Being European, I have to comment that, like all American cars, Chevrolets only work well in a straight line. They might as well run on a track like the Tailwind handles.

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Why does the Tailwind cost so much?

October 27th, 2011

On this date about 150 years ago, Macy’s opened their doors in New York City and took in over $1000. I thought that was a lot for the time period – but it made me think about a question I hear often: why does the Tailwind cost so much? I thought perhaps I could offer some insight into the development of a medical device.

The Tailwind was developed by Ph.D. researchers at the University of Maryland over a 10-year period. These researchers tested different methods of arm rehabilitation on real subjects, refining their ideas, building prototype after prototype, setting up clinical studies, and publishing their results in prestigious medical journals like the Journal of the American Medical Association. Here’s where you can read more about how the Tailwind was invented: http://www.tailwindtherapy.com/tailwinds-proven-technology/scientific-development-of-tailwind.php

After the researchers arrived at a final prototype, the device was granted a patent in the US, Europe, and Canada. Then the Tailwind was reengineered by a team of medical device engineers to make it durable and
easy to use. This new design was then tested again with patients. Once the final design was chosen, the Tailwind was manufactured to exact specifications, using several manufacturers to create certain parts. The final product was assembled here in Maryland. You can read more about the engineering process here: http://www.tailwindtherapy.com/tailwinds-proven-technology/history-of-tailwind.php

For these reasons, we have kept the price of the Tailwind as low as we can while still paying for the development and manufacture of the device. Bringing a device to market takes a lot of work and lot of years!

One Response to “Why does the Tailwind cost so much?”

  1. home trainer says:

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Music for Brain ReTraining

October 22nd, 2011

This weekend marks the 130th anniversary of the first concert ever given
by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Over the years, science has proven the many
benefits of listening to music, from relaxation, mood enhancement, and exercise
benefits. But more recently, researchers have discovered a link between music –
or anything rhythmic – and brain plasticity, or rather the brain’s ability to
“rewire” itself following an injury.

Numerous studies have shown that training with a rhythmic auditory cue (such as music
with a strong beat) following a brain injury such as stroke has shown to result
in greater movement gains than doing the exact same training without the
rhythm. The Tailwind device for arm rehabilitation relies on rhythmic auditory
cueing as a key component to its ability to improve arm function and range of
motion for stroke survivors.

It is believed that exercising to music or other auditory cue, such as with a
metronome, may act on central neural facilitation mechanisms (i.e., may
increase neural activity in the brain.) Auditory rhythms appear to enhance
regular motor recruitment patterns. This suggests a relationship between the
auditory and motor systems. The ability of rhythm to retrain motor patterns
leads us to believe that music is a good tool for stroke  rehabilitation
therapy. Next time you’re out for a walk, take along some music!

One Response to “Music for Brain ReTraining”

  1. Geoff says:

    That’s some very interesting and refreshing information!

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Stroke Around the World

October 19th, 2011

Europe’s financial woes continue but I’m pleased to say that the Tailwind continues its history of being in high demand in Europe and beyond. When I first launched the Tailwind in 2009, I was surprised by how many people from all over the world contacted me about buying it. I did not expect to have to learn export rules and global shipping processes so soon, but I had to because so many people wanted to purchase it. One of the first to contact me was a woman in France, and she didn’t speak much English and I didn’t know much French. Eventually her son, who lived in New York City, purchased it for her and took it home to France.

Our first distributor was Anatomical Concepts in Scotland (www.anatomicalconcepts.com). The owners are rehabilitation professionals who are very forward-thinking in their approach to stroke recovery, and they had read about the clinical studies involving the Tailwind long before I even founded the company. Today they sell the Tailwind all over the UK.

Since then, we have shipped the Tailwind to Mexico, South Africa, Guatemala, Germany, Greece, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Spain. In Asia we’ve shipped to Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea just in the past two months. And the country we’ve shipped to the most? Japan, which has the highest stroke rate per capita in the world. Everywhere you find a developed country, you will find stroke survivors. This is usually because highly developed countries also have highly developed diets—lots of high-fat processed foods high in sodium, in large quantities. And where you find stroke survivors, you’ll find the Tailwind!

 

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