Regaining Strength After StrokeTailwind featured in Discoveries + Breakthroughs - 05/01/2011 Regaining Strength After Stroke Read the article ยป

User Testimonials

All types of individuals have benefited from the science behind Tailwind™. At Encore Path, we know there are many unmet needs in the stroke rehabilitation world. That’s why we are so enthusiastic about the potential that Tailwind brings. We also know that stroke is the number one cause of disability in adults and more than 44 percent of these people cite arm movement as their most common physical challenge.

Norris, Tailwind user testimonial

Norris, Maryland

In 1998, I had a severe stroke that severely limited my right side. I couldn't move my right arm or right hand as I wanted, and couldn't seem to control my movements.

I was retired at the time, and didn't have the pressure of needing to do certain motions for my work, so I just learned to compensate. Like many stroke survivors, I would use my "good" arm and hand to do "double duty" for all the many small movements that are done in a typical day. Because my left side was fully-functioning, I could drive again 10 months after my stroke.

I was very motivated to try to regain the use of my right arm, and I'd go to my local gym and try to lift weights, working on my own. But I found that the gym was not set up for someone who had experienced a stroke and even the lightest weights were too heavy for me to work with and I wasn't comfortable trying to explain myself to the staff there.

For the most part, I thought that I had as much muscle recovery as I would be able to get.

But, in 2005, physicians at Kernan Hospital, a hospital renowned for its rehabilitation programs, referred me to a series of clinical trials testing new rehab equipment at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. There, two physical therapists had developed an innovative new device - the BATRAC or the bilateral arm training with rhythmic auditory cueing.

The trials were working with patients who had experienced their stroke at least a year earlier, and even a few others were like me, with a stroke many years before the study. The BATRAC uses recorded sounds to cue patients to push two T-bar handles back and forth on a track. The repeated movements help the brain of stroke patients to re-learn arm and hand movements. These researchers showed that the brain can rewire itself after a stroke.

I was a very determined volunteer. First, I was in a control group but then I became part of the BATRAC clinical trial. I continued participating three times a week, for over a year. Within a short period of time, I started to regain gross right arm movements, then later, with the finer motor skills of my right hand.

The improvements came quickly, but then I'd hit a plateau. I had to work to keep up with the exercises, and then I'd make more improvements.

I had been driving for the eight years after my stroke, but I needed help with many small hand motor movements. After working with the BATRAC, I could cut up my own meat and literally break my own bread. I could do these "simple" acts because I finally had the strength and control in my right hand to use force to hold the food in place. Not only was I proud to control my utensils myself while eating at home, but I felt great eating out with my wife in a restaurant.

Now, I can play catch with my grandson. I want my grandson to remember us sharing those kinds of activities together.

In fact, I ran into an old friend who hadn't seen me since before I started my rehab therapy with the BATRAC, and my friend automatically extended his left hand to greet me.I really surprised my friend by extending my right hand to shake his!

I started my therapy with a graduated length push with the T-bars, and over time, I have extended the length I can push both handles at the same time, but I can also work at diagonal and raised angles, which are more advanced rehab positions.

You have to have determination but it's wonderful to be able to regain movement in my right arm and in my hand, after so many years!

Debora, Maryland

I use my arms constantly, so when I suddenly couldn't move my left arm in 2001, it was particularly disturbing. That was a very stressful period in my life, and my doctor was convinced that I had multiple sclerosis. When I went to physical therapy, the PTs kept telling me that I was presenting like someone who had a stroke. With occupational therapy, regular massage & acupuncture, and vitamin supplements, I regained full use of my arm. I was only in my 40's then.

But then, in July 2005, I was in Georgia at an outdoor festival. It was hot and I was dancing out in the sun. I was dehydrated, and suddenly, my left arm felt numb, just like it did in 2001. I just collapsed, right there. I kept thinking it was MS, so I didn't know there was urgency for medical care. My brother came to Georgia to get me home and I waited to go the hospital until I got to Maryland. I wanted individual attention from a hospital with my medical records, where they knew what I'd experienced in 2001.

By the time I arrived at the same hospital, I could not walk, I didn't have balance or any strength in my left leg and I still couldn't use my left arm. They did many tests and finally, went back to the MRI films on file from 2001. Then, they realized I'd had a stroke in 2001 and had a stroke again that summer in 2005.

I had excellent rehab and within three weeks, I was walking with a cane and left the hospital. At home, I continued with OT and PT. I could walk, but I could not use my arm or control my movements, and here I was, trained as a massage therapist! I didn't work for six months and it was awful.

It never occurred to me that I would have any permanent damage or that I wouldn't be able to resume what I had been doing before the stroke. I kept starting questions for my therapists and doctors with the phrase, "when will I be able to.." There were so many activities I wanted to resume. What was shocking to me is that the doctors and therapists were using phrases like, "you may never be able to." and that was just devastating.

I was so determined to improve; I tried lots of different options. About two years after my stroke, I was told about the BATRAC (brand name "Tailwind") clinical trial. I could extend my fingers and arm and I could reach my arm over my head, but I could not open door knobs or put a key in the lock, so I was a good candidate for the clinical trial. The researchers wanted people in the trial who had not regained their arm and hand movements, even years after their strokes.

My goal was to get more fine motor skills, more accuracy with my arm, and have less tremors and more strength in my arms.

I worked on the BATRAC for six weeks, three times per week, and I did see improvement very quickly. I had much more awareness of my left arm. I have more body awareness, more strength, and my range of motion improved.

I can also use my fingers more accurately and can control my smaller motor motions more. My arm has become much more accurate - my control, too. If I reach out to touch something, I'm likely to be able to touch it. For example, if I'm trying to get my laundry and reach out to take it from the washer into the dryer, now I can grab the right clothes. Working with the BATRAC helped me accomplish the goals that I wanted to reach with my gross motor skills.

I believe strongly that my health is my responsibility. I was determined to improve. There is no magic pill to help you recover. Some treatments take a lot of effort and cost. I've gone to stroke survivor support groups and told people about the BATRAC. I tell people about my experiences because I want others to be able to learn or benefit from what has happened to me.

Since my own experience, I now am adept at massage therapy for stroke survivors. I know exactly where to put emphasis and how to help others feel better through massage. But often, people will say to me, "massage isn't covered by insurance" or "I don't get reimbursed for that."

My feeling is that is the wrong approach. I was out of work for six months and wiped out my savings, but I knew that I had to invest in my own health and my own treatments.I was determined to improve. My health is my responsibility.

The medical specialists - doctors and therapists - were telling me that I might have severe setbacks and to be prepared that there were movements that I might never be able to do again. But I decided I'd work harder and keep trying different options. I don't put limits on myself. I don't know what will help me improve, unless I try it.

Try everything you possibly can - that would be my advice to any other stroke patient - and you have to trust that you'll get better. Our potential for health & healing is unlimited when we believe it is. The only limits are the ones we impose on ourselves.

Optimal health is a necessity, not a luxury. Don't put limits on yourself.