Your Greatest Investment – Health RRSPs

RRSP (REHABILITATION REINTEGRATION SUPPORT PLAN)

This being my first blog, as CEO of Aim2Walk, I wanted to focus on the cost of therapy as it relates to a client’s improvement.  I consider all patients ‘clients’ because of all the hard earned investments dollar they provide for their therapy.  Similar to real estate or stock investments, all clients look for a return on investment over time.

There are no guarantees, but like investments that you control (self directed RRSPs), you can make a difference.  Look at therapy as an investment in long term wellness.  If you choose a therapy program that is prescribed by your doctor or therapist without your input, as is in most cases, your return on investment could be long and with little return on your health improvement.  If, however, you are involved in your therapy plan from the onset – defining goals, projected improvement and time line expectations for reintegration to society – your investment will be secure, if not realized.

Clients often struggle with the cost of therapy so your first objective, like all investments, is to DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

  1. Challenge the clinic or therapist on what the costs of therapy will represent versus tangible improvement.
  2. Have a thorough assessment of your current state of health and measure the results financially as it relates to your goals of improvement.
  3. If you choose to have therapy once a week your improvement in health will be likely be a slow process with marginal gains.  If you choose a more aggressive portfolio of therapy, with pre-defined goals you are more likely to see substantial and sustainable gains.

In starting Aim2walk, my first objective was not to add financial stress to a client’s well being.  Instead, with our amazing team, we set a course of protocol treatments that would be cost efficient and maximize returns on one’s health.

We added state of the art robotics and equipment without adding additional costs to therapy.

It is imperative for our clients to realize that an investment in health is the most important focus in life.  When you ignore your health, it usually gets worse.  If you hire the right clinic and make sure your expectations are discussed and outlined with targeted results measured over time, success will be inevitable.

To become a winning client, you must be hungry: hungry for success, hungry for victory, hungry to simply be the best you can be.  It starts with a dream, but somehow, someway, you must be inspired or you will never be able to reach your dream, your goal.

Desire is sometimes more important than talent or even a healthy body.  Desire is what motivated Mike, a world class gymnastics coach, once paralyzed, but now back to doing what he loves after regaining his ability to walk and coach again.  Desire has also fuelled Fabio, the young man with severe spasms that prevented him from looking up, to finally after six months of protocol therapy to look into his mother’s eye without a spasm in sight.  Stories like these are becoming more and more frequent – the human spirit and its thirst to overcome the near impossible is unquenchable.

I believe that sometimes not to be challenged is, in and of itself, a challenge.  If somehow you are not inspired, you will never do great things… you will never get that winning edge, and you may never reach your goals.  Without a true desire to improve and be great, to accomplish something outstanding, to do something special with your life, you will never be able to push yourself to do what must be done.

It is very easy to cruise through a therapy session now and then, to take a day off, and to not work your hardest.  A good coach (therapist) can help you by telling and showing you what needs to be done and how often to do it, but the rest is up you.  Only you can focus your desire upon achieving your goals no matter what!

Once you have the desire, it’s the determination and dedication that will carry you to your goal.  Keep your mind on the things you want and off the things you don’t want.  It sounds simple, doesn’t it?

The relentless quest, the energy that keeps you going day after day, is your shear determination.  There are no short cuts in the world of rehabilitation – only goals to be set and goals to be achieved, competition to be faced, adversity to overcome.  Only the truly determined will ever come close to attaining their goals.

Lack of opportunity is often nothing more than a lack of purpose or direction.  You have set a goal, you have a purpose, you have direction, and you know where you are going and how you are going to get there.  We want you to be more determined than the next client, to stay the course and steadfastly reach your goals and achieve what is yours to have.  Accomplish something special with your life, something that no one can take from you, something that you will treasure forever and ever – Independence!

Our motto is ”Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Start by doing your research, set your expectations and time line and you will hit your target for independence.

Cheers to good health

David Berto

CEO

Brain-in-the-Box?

I’d like to talk about a client of ours at Aim2Walk, his name is Fabio. Fabio has been coming to us for treatment for about a year. Five years ago he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and his life has not been the same since. Luckily, Fabio has a caring and supportive family, as well as the will to be strong and optimistic despite the new challenges he faces in life.

One of these challenges is spasticity.

Symptoms of spasticity include hypertonicity (increased muscle tone), clonus (a series of rapid muscle contractions), exaggerated reflexes, muscle spasms, and fixed joints (contractures). The degree of spasticity can vary from mild to severe.

Aside from standard rehabilitation, some conventional treatments for spasticity include drugs, surgery, and localized injections like botox. There is still no clear-cut approach to treating spasticity. In most cases all that can be done is to ‘take the edge off’.

Fabio’s neck was severely affected by hypertonicity, essentially a constant muscle spasm that kept it locked in the side-bent and forward-flexed position (as seen in the photo below). In fact, it left him unable to look at anything except his left foot! His reflexes also became so hyper-sensitive that attempting to straighten or stretch his neck triggered his other limbs to spasm and curl up with extreme force. This was a very painful experience for Fabio that would set off more pain induced spasms.

In the 5 years since Fabio’s accident, his rehabilitation had shown minimal improvement. Essentially his therapy had plateaued and it wasn’t looking like conventional therapy was going to break the pattern. Fabio and his family are a stead-fast and dedicated bunch who simply refuse to quit, but regardless, it takes more than just dedication to see results… it takes a method that works.

Have you every played with a Jack-In-The-Box? You wind and wind and then finally… out it pops! Your hard work pays off! Ok, so imagine if you just kept winding and waiting and winding and waiting and winding and waiting and winding and waiting and winding… well, you get the idea.

Bottom line, if your tools have failed you… what then? (You know, using the same approach again and again and expecting a different result every time not only gets you nowhere, it’s also the definition of insanity! Oh my!).

This leads a therapist to question: At what point, when conventional treatments are showing minimal to no improvement, is it time to stop playing with the tools inside your current box, and take your brain OUT OF THE BOX.

This is when it’s time to stop relying on what you already know (or think you already know), and let those creative and inspirational Alpha brainwaves kick in.

Here are a few guidelines we use at our clinic to help us think outside the box:

1) Reassess the client as an individual. Rather than lumping clients into general diagnostic categories, look for details in their condition that make them unique to other clients with similar conditions. Every client is different, and their neurological symptoms will likely be as well. The more clearly you can recognize the unique particulars to each client’s condition, the better equipped you will be at implementing what each individual needs to improve.

2) Take the time needed to ‘learn’ about your client. When I tell clients that it will likely take me some time to learn how to treat them, I always get a funny look. It’s important to remember that therapy is like using spice when you cook. A chef never uses the exact same spices in the same quantities right off the bat… a good chef knows to taste and adjust as they cook! So, just like every dish is uniquely spiced as it cooks… a good therapist will observe and learn how a client is responding to their therapy on an ongoing basis. You need to know a client’s mind, muscle and nervous system better then they do, before you can hope to make any lasting change. This takes time, patience, detailed observation and ongoing analysis.

3) Consider the client’s condition strictly from a physiological/pathophysiological perspective. What I mean is, rather than viewing the client’s condition from the mind of a therapist (with a pre-set box of therapy tools), try and understand what’s happening in their body without preconceived ideas of how you’re going to treat them. Go back to the basic building blocks of physiology, biology and mechanical reality. It’s those basics that helped create treatment protocols to begin with, so if those protocols fail, it makes sense to start over from the beginning, right?

4) Research research research. Experiment experiment experiment. Seems simple, but I’ve seen too many medical practitioners, be it modern or traditional, spending more energy on rationalizing the validity of what they’re already doing, instead of contemplating other potentially more effective possibilities.

These are just some of the ways to keep therapy innovative and adaptable. It’s harder than you might think. The boxes we build for our brains are usually very well made. They’re meant to give definition and order. Unfortunately they also sometimes keep you in the dark. While it would be nice if, like a Jack-in-the-Box, we all had cranks on the side of our head to ‘pop’ our brains out when needed, we don’t. If you want to free your brain from the box, you’ll have to do it the old fashion way. Use it.

As for Fabio, it only took one session of thinking outside the box to be pleasantly surprised. His neck began to straighten! After just a few more sessions he was no longer just starring at his left foot, he was looking you straight in the eyes! It was more change then he had seen in 5 years.

Fabio still has a long way to go, but this is a great ‘new’ inspiring start to his therapy. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Fabio for giving all of us at Aim2Walk the chance to grow as therapists, and for reminding us that there’s a much larger world of possibilities outside the box, if we dare venture there.

– Jesse

Miracle in a Bottle

The moment you realize that the world as you knew it suddenly means nothing and has been completely flipped around cannot be put into words. I still remember the moment when I realized things will never be the same again for me. That moment was shared with a paramedic trying to reassure me that everything was going to be “all right.” Certainly the greatest understatement I have heard in my relatively short life thus far.

Being located relatively close to Toronto I was sent to Toronto Rehab or as most people know it, Lyndhurst. Lyndhurst is a rehabilitation “hospital” for those recovering from spinal cord injuries or diseases. While the lucky few have a short and successful stay, unfortunately for the most of Lyndhurst’s patients this is not the case. It is one fraught with insurance battles, caseworkers and home renovations. Somewhere in between that combo is your patient education as you learn what has happened to your body and why exactly it isn’t recovering as fast as it should be or recovering at all.

Snake Oil in a Bottle!

Snake Oil in a Bottle!

Then somewhere along the line you will hear about stem cells and the miracles that may be possible in the future. I previously wrote about stem cells back in mid December but that blog entry was written with my curiosity in mind. Unfortunately, a lot of people cannot handle the emotional trauma from having their life turned upside down and start “grasping at straws.” Those “straws” tend to be something related with stem cell injections or some other injection into the body with stem cells added. Then there are the people who also take advantage of the horrible situation that a newly injured person is in.

As with anything claiming to be the latest and greatest “snake oil” in a bottle, there are going to be people promising false hopes and playing on human emotions. It is only natural that you’re going to be emotionally vulnerable during this new period in your life and open to new ideas and schools of thought. One of the most promising ideas for a cure to spinal cord injury as well as many other neurological disorders requires the injection of  stem cells. There are a few different main types of stem cells with the thought that cells from the umbilical cord being the “best.” Unfortunately, the United States has a on-again and off-again relationship with funding and backing of this research due to a host of reasons which I won’t get into here.

Proverbial Magic Bottle

Proverbial Magic Bottle

This leaves new patients and other people who suffer from chronic neurological disorders searching for any hope that is out there. The Western medicine world has a cautious, slow and sometimes arrogant approach that new medical discoveries are either a fluke or incorrect. So many people have decided that going abroad and getting their own treatment by paying a huge sum of money to a private source in a foreign country is the best bet. Their adventures are fueled by previous patients claims that they have recovered movement or feeling somewhere in their body. However, there is no universally recognized database or testing method for these people looking and paying for treatment. Most recently the National Post ran an article about a trio of men arrested in the United States for selling stem ‘miracle cures.’  With a fourth man Lawrence Stowe, still at large and was the “Doctor” in the scheme.

This group of four men “marketed, promoted, and sold stem cells” for the treatment of several diseases through front companies. While the arrest is great news for those that are honestly researching in this field it makes one wonder how many other fraudulent front companies and victims are out there but too afraid or embarrassed to come forward. Almost a week later the reputable TV show 60 Minutes ran one of their investigations of another case where a mother and father brought their son diagnosed with cerebral palsy to a “clinic” offering stem cell injections. For some time after the injection Gary and Judy Susser, the mother and father, noticed next to no gains from their son. This was another case of an organization preying upon the hopes and dreams of a family with nothing but good intentions.

The investigation then continues to research and follow one Dr. Dan Ecklund, a now fraudulent doctor whose medical license was revoked and denied in 2005. The investigation follows and tries to understand how and why this “Doctor” could and would take huge sums of money from families being promised miraculous recoveries and gains for their loved ones or themselves. It is an excellent insight into the underworld of 21st century snake oil charlatans.

In this 60 Minutes web video interview extra, it is hard not to spot the outlandishness of Mr. Ecklund. It is almost comical in his claims that overnight one of his patients went from being barely able to walk up a driveway, to climbing a mountain the next day! It is also funny to see him say that the potential side effects of an injection to the lumbar part of the spine could be a headache. For something so serious as a lumbar puncture and for the first thing to come to mind as a side effect could be a headache I couldn’t help but laugh. I am certainly no Doctor, but, baby Aspirin have more side effects than that! There are a few good clips from the investigation ranging from just under 2 minutes to over 10 minutes in length. At this time I cannot find the whole show but I will update this post and blog once I do.

Even from watching that small clip you can see how criminally cunning these people and organizations are that operate in North America let alone other countries with less of a watchful eye. There is a great resourceful website, CareCure, for those with spinal cord injuries in particular, but also beneficial to others looking for help or information on brain injuries and a host of other neurological diseases and disorders. Over the years I have personally witnessed (online) many people go for treatment to questionable locations spending anywhere from $50,000 well into and over the $100,000 mark. I would say that close to all of the people who do follow up do not report any significant gain in feeling or function. The website is an initiative, and to some extent sponsored by Rutgers University, with Dr. Wise Young and other spinal cord injury nurses often cautiously advise people to stay away from these suspect foreign organizations that offer seemingly so much potential but with little documentation.

That is not to say though that a stem cell “cure” can only come from North America or the Western world. As one of the other first world country powerhouses involved in many other industries, South Korea, is now funding research after a public scandal broke in 2005. It was revealed at the time that pre-eminent scientist, Hwang Woo-suk, had manipulated his research data on cloning stem cells. But now South Korea is once again funding stem cell research after President Lee Myung-bak said “while we were faltering in our quest for stem cell research, other nations streamlined their regulations and aggressively expanded their investments in research,” to try to make stem cell research a “core new growth engine”. this means quite a lot to the stem cell world as South Korea is Asia’s fourth largest economy.

So while there are somewhat questionable suspects offering various “cures,” there definitely is hope that various countries, including Canada, are trying to make stem cell research part of their medical industry. So it will be interesting to see what is coming down the pipeline in the future as fictitious criminal activity declines and promising ethical research rises to the forefront. In the meantime, I have found that hard work and continuous physiotherapy is the best method to regain former mobility, movement and function.

————

Here are the links to the 60 Minutes Internet web video extras:

Stem Cell Fraud: A 60 Minutes Investigation

Hidden camera interview with stem cell Doctor

Claiming a stem cell cure

“There’s no substance to anything he said”