Physical rehabilitation is vital for patients to restore quality of life after stroke and other neurological, orthopaedic and paediatric conditions. Nobody knows this better or just how hard it is, than someone who has gone through it.
Kate Allatt experienced a rare, massive brain stem stroke at the age of 39, and then went on to develop locked-in syndrome. Doctors said she’d never walk, talk or be able to use her arms again. But she defied all predictions, and through grit, determination and hard work, walked out of hospital.
Today, Kate is a credible and trusted peer mentor, global influencer, voice for stroke and locked-in syndrome survivors, and has recently taken on a new role as ambassador of GripAble – a smart mobile assessment and training device that connects to an app, to help people work on their arm movement and grip strength.
GripAble CEO and co-founder, Dr Paul Rinne and Kate Allatt discuss the challenges she faced during her rehabilitation, and the importance of stroke survivors having access to the right technology and support to rebuild their strength, achieve their goals and ultimately, restore their independence.
The challenges of stroke rehab
“In some sense, the challenge is as much mental as physical,” says Paul. “We all know how hard it is to keep exercising; imagine having to exercise every single day after experiencing a life shattering event like a stroke – performing hours of the same repetitive movements over and over again, just to be able to hold a glass of water again.
Keeping up with a rehabilitation regime, no matter how willing you are, is a grind. It can seem as though all of that sweat and the understandable tears, may leave you thinking that it’s all for nothing and that the future is bleak.”
Kate says: “Exactly! From my own rehabilitation and recovery following a catastrophic stroke, I know just how
hard it is to remain motivated and focussed.”
When undergoing rehab in hospital, Kate faced a number of challenges, as she explains: “Without doubt, the biggest single challenge in hospital for me, was fighting the low expectations of my future from my multi-disciplinary team and subsequently, my family. Locked-in syndrome puts you in a state where you can think, feel, see and hear everything, but move nothing. My body was effectively a blank and lifeless canvas, and I had to try and bring each individual part of me back to life.
I must admit many of the exercises I did in hospital seemed pointless at the time. The goals that truly mattered to me were being able to hug my children, tell them I loved them and to run again – even before I could walk again! My mind couldn’t comprehend how, by sitting on an uncomfortable wheelchair air mattress attempting to move pegs or squeeze Play-Doh, I was going to reach these goals. But I had to accept that it was all part of the process.”
Upon returning home, Kate felt she was able to take control of her own recovery: “I was lucky enough to be introduced to a personal trainer, who believed in me and what mattered to me. He worked as hard as I did to restore my confidence, and even helped me to manage to ‘run’ just one year after my stroke – something nobody ever believed was possible.
As fellow stroke survivors and their families will know, rehab is an ongoing process and requires the individual to remain motivated and focused. When returning home, stroke survivors should be given access to simple exercises that are fun and don’t feel like rehab, and – importantly – allow them to see how far they’ve progressed. All too often, stroke survivors are told they will reach a plateau in their recovery, which is totally demotivating – for some individuals, incremental gains can in fact be made for years after a stroke.”
As GripAble ambassador, Kate is working with GripAble to launch a number of initiatives to enhance physical, emotional and mental support. This ‘Stroke Buddy’ campaign will include regular live coaching webchats, live Twitter chats, social media groups and forums, and a Stroke Buddy Group for peer mentoring and support from other stroke survivors.
“Support from and connection with peers who ‘get’ them and the challenges they are facing is crucial for stroke survivors and to their recovery,” says Kate.
From hospital to home
“For years, therapists have struggled to find the appropriate tools that can engage their patients in rehab, allow for greater efficiency in their workflow, and track progress remotely,” Paul says. “Studies show that the more repetition and strength training a person performs, the greater their chance of restoring movement, and ultimately their independence.”
GripAble’s unique handgrip connects to a mobile app, allowing the user to play specifically designed activities to train core hand and arm movements in a fun and engaging way, either with a therapist or when alone.
For more information: www.gripable.co