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Getting Stroke Patients Back on Their Feet: July 7, 2012

Millions of Americans are living with the after affects of stroke.  Now, using specialized techniques, therapists are exploring better ways to help stroke and other neurologically impaired patients regain motor skills such as walking.

Lucie Williams is a woman in motion, but flashback a year ago and she was virtually immobile.

“When I woke up, I found out that I couldn’t see properly. I would see shapes and hear voices but I couldn’t see the person and my whole left side was paralyzed,” says Williams.

Lucie is one of 4 million stroke survivors in this country. Many have to relearn to walk and talk. Following her initial rehab, Lucie realized she had more work to do.

“I couldn’t close my hands, my feet still didn’t move the way it was supposed to. I couldn’t hold anything with my left and I looked, I looked like this because the left side was still very weak,” says Williams.

“It used to be where you talk about the first six weeks to be most influential in your recovery; and then it changed, well the first three months. And then the first six months. And we find that even after 10 years we can still help people to improve,” Lee Memorial Health System neurodevelopment therapist Abe Abarbanel.

Abe Abarbanal specializes in stroke therapy at the Lee Center for Rehabilitation and Wellness.  He worked with Lucie, starting with her weakened arms.

“We had her push objects - we had her push tables, we had her align her body and create some compression in her shoulder girdle.  If you have a flaccid shoulder that doesn’t want to move then you’re going to have a decreased muscle tone on the shoulder blade and that impedes your ability to hold your balance,” says Abarbanel.

Lucie started with baby steps, and with six months of stroke therapy, rebuilt her form. 

“I said I want to walk, I want to be able to do everything for myself. And I’m able to do it,” says Williams.