This blog is written by an Aim2Walk student Rhea Molenaar. Rhea is in her fourth year studying Kinesiology at the University of Guelph-Humber. She’s written about an inspiring client here at the clinic named Joanne. Regine has also put together a YouTube video showing the struggles and dedication Joanne has towards her recovery.
Joanne, a patient at our Aim2Walk clinic, is overcoming challenges, achieving goals and experiencing health benefits with her rehabilitative therapy. Joanne’s story started in 1997 when she started experiencing spasms and stomach pain. For 2 years she was going back and forth from the hospital trying to find a diagnosis. The doctor suggested she see a psychiatrist because he thought the spasms were psychological. Joanne was dissatisfied with this diagnosis because knew the symptoms she was feeling wasn’t “all in her head”.
She found a new doctor referred to her by a close friend and in 5 months she was sent for an MRI. It was then that they found an Astrocytoma tumour on her spinal cord. After the diagnosis in 1998, Joanne had her first surgery to remove the tumour. In 2000, Joanne had her second surgery because the tumour came back and in 2001, she received 35 radiation treatments and was free of symptoms or complications.
It wasn’t until 2011, when Joanne started to experience more health problems. She started losing balance and needed to start walking with a cane as a lot of her strength started leaving her. On June 15th 2011, Joanne got an MRI. Four days later, Joanne went to the hospital and found out the tumour regrew and was diagnosed cancerous. There was no option for another surgery so she was prescribed oral chemo capsules. The chemo capsules were not working so they treated Joanne with 45 sessions of strong radiation. During this time Joanne’s ability to walk continued to decrease.
A full year passed by and on November 2nd, 2012 Joanne had another MRI. While visually observing her condition the doctors said that she needed to be hospitalized. They kept Joanne in a bed at the hospital for 7 days without moving. With her being immobile for 7 days she was not able to move, walk, eat, bathe or go to the washroom. With that being the case the doctor told Joanne they couldn’t do anything for her. They told her to go home and deal with the fact that she will never be able to walk again. Joanne fought that statement and searched for a rehabilitation clinic in Toronto. No one would accept her because of her condition. Eventually, through her own personal connections, she was able to get into a rehabilitation program at a hospital. There, she was seen by one of the doctors who believed she could improve. She then got an electric wheelchair and got 50 sessions of rehabilitation therapy.
After 6 weeks of therapeutic rehabilitation, Joanne was not reaching the ultimate rehabilitative goals she had personally set for herself. The intensity and speed of the recovery was too slow and she was getting frustrated. As she expressed this, one of the therapists suggested she look into Aim2walk describing it as a clinic with one-on-one therapy and unique, state of the art equipment.
It’s been 5 months since Joanne started coming to Aim2walk and feels she has already improved by 50%! She is now able to move her arms above her head, scoot her weight from side to side, and is doing sit to stands to practice standing and weight bearing on her feet. Joanne is fortunate to have great Health Benefits, and is able to dedicate herself 4 days a week for 2 hour treatment sessions. The first hour of each session consists of stretching and functional exercises. These help with decreasing muscle rigidity, muscle spasms and increase muscle activation to help with neuroplasticity- the regrowth of new nerve routes.
Depending on the day of the week, the second hour of treatment consists of Lokomat training or FES bike. The Lokomat involves robotic legs that walk through the functional gait pattern with assisted body weight support. This helps retrain her muscles involved with proper walking, range of motion and biomechanics. It also improves circulation in the lower extremities.
On other days she uses the FES Bike(Functional Electrostimulation) where neuro-stimulation pads are placed on her quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus to help activate muscles in synchrony with a biking pattern. She also receives acupuncture treatment once a week to help move Qi (energy), improve circulation, activate certain channels and nerves and release trigger points. Joanne also gets therapeutic massage once a week. This helps to decrease muscle tension, release trigger points, bring heat to tissues and breakdown myofascial tightness.
Joanne’s biggest challenge at the moment is dealing with the muscle spasms. These muscle spasms wake her up at night, and occur often. With Joanne doing such high intensive therapy training, her muscles are getting stronger and she is gaining feeling back in her legs. The muscle spasms are a good indicator that her muscles are alive and active. What we’re working on now is helping her nerves relearn the right route to the proper muscles and aid in decreasing her pain.
Joanne has days when she wakes up and doesn’t feel determined to do therapy, but as soon as she enters Aim2walk, her outlook on the day changes with positive thoughts on improving and being able to walk again.
After being told that she would never walk again, Joanne pushed herself even more. Joanne has weaned herself off of her pain killers and now only takes Baclofen in the evening as needed. Now that she is off her medication, she has more body awareness and significantly decreased numbness. She can now feel her legs and move her feet! The achievements she’s made in such a short amount of time proves that hard work and dedication to frequent, intense therapeutic sessions pays off!
Blog by: Rhea Molenaar
Kinesiology Student, University Guelph-Humber
YouTube Video: Regine Gorospe