30 November 2008

Teenage gymnast has pioneering surgery to cure twisted spine

A teenage gymnast is setting her sights on international glory after pioneering surgery to cure her twisted spine.

Last Updated: 1:32PM GMT 30 Nov 2008

Ruth Smith, 13, was suffering from a rare condition called scoliosis which meant her back was permanently bent in an 'S' shape.

The condition was diagnosed five years ago and had caused her spine to grow as much as 78 degrees off straight.

And it even meant that one of her ribs was sticking out of her right side because her whole ribcage was twisted.

Normally with scoliosis, two titanium rods are screwed into the spine to help straighten it and brackets known as 'dominoes' are fixed in place to allow the rods to move.

But with young children this can cause long term problems because fixing just two rods in place doesn't allow the spine to grow naturally.

Ruth's spinal surgeon, Evan Davies, felt that because of her age and the high level of flexibility needed for her gymnastics this would not work - so he invented his own.

Mr Davies teamed up with a Swiss professor of engineering to design and manufacture the groundbreaking 'Davies' Dominoes'.

And just three months after the nine hour operation, Ruth, from Portsmouth, Hants, was back on the vault - and is now setting her sights on the 2012 European Championships.

Ruth's mum Miriam, 44, said the change in her daughter since the operation, which took place on June 3, has been 'amazing.'

She said: "We first spotted there was something wrong when she was eight and she has been monitored ever since then

"Evan Davies got involved about two years ago when the curve in her spine began to get dramatically worse.

"She actually kept up her gymnastics right up until a week before the operation.

If Ruth had been treated in the conventional way, with two rods rather than four, she would have had to return to hospital each year for an operation.

But because of Davies' Dominoes, the only operation she will need in the future is when she stops growing.

Ruth said she was nervous before the operation but says that since getting back on the floor she feels 'like there was never anything wrong.'

She said: "Being able to do gymnastics without any pain is amazing for me.

"I was nervous before the surgery but it feels fantastic now and I can do everything I could before.

"It feels like there was never anything wrong."

Ruth, who trains four times a week, added: "The thought of not being able to do it anymore was horrible - it was worse than the pain itself.

"Now I would love to take my gymnastics further and be in our team for the European Championships."

Mr Davies, who is a consultant in spinal surgery at Southampton General Hospital gained international reknown last year when he reattached a junior racing driver's head to his spine after a horror crash.

Chris Stewart was just 12 years old when he suffered 'internal decapitation' in the accident.

Chris astounded experts by making a full recovery from his life-threatening injuries.

Therapists use video games to motivate patients

While gamers spend countless hours in front of television screens and battle thumb fatigue on a daily basis, they may meet their match if they do battle with some local therapy patients.

The Thibodaux Regional Medical Center’s Outpatient Rehabilitation program has found a new, fun way to carry out its mission and in the strangest of ways … video games.

The program is one of a kind in the bayou region, using the Nintendo Wii gaming system to aid in outpatient physical rehabilitation.

“We’ve used the Nintendo Wii for the last five months with appropriate patients in our clinic,” said Jason Ledet, program director of both in- and outpatient programs for Thibodaux Regional Medical Center.

He said appropriate patients fall under several categories including patients with balance issues, strokes and brain injuries.

“The patient has to be capable of some physical activity before being allowed the use of the treatment,” Ledet said.

Rehab officials say they have received positive feedback from the gaming system’s use.

“Most of our patients really enjoy it; the kids love it,” physical therapist Jennifer Matherne said. “Some of our older patients enjoy it too; those with head injuries or strokes – it’s a challenge for them but it also let’s them play a little and help them to remember they can still have fun.”

Ledet said the particular game used is dependent upon the patient and their needs.

“We’ve used tennis, golf, bowling and especially the Wii fitness game which we use to improve balance and weight shifts,” he said.

The use of the system has been a motivating factor in the clinic and all of the games used are designed to help the patients with visual goals.

“It also challenges our patients on a competitive basis; we have patients that love to compete against each other,” Ledet said.

He said he recalls walking into a therapy session and witnessing a contest between a young and much-older patient.

“It was great to see the generation gap bridged and to see two completely different age groups combining, connecting and working together towards the same goals,” Ledet said. “You do see that very often in this line of work.”

While the Nintendo Wii has only been on the market for a few years, medical experts have been unable to conduct long-term studies on the effectiveness of the system, but local therapists say they can see the benefit of the unorthodox training.

“I believe it does work, in conjunction of course with other, more traditional therapeutic techniques,” Matherne said. The gaming treatment works especially well for “neurological patients who have trouble with balance, basic coordination, hand-eye coordination, lower extremity coordination and endurance. We also use the games to assess the patient’s ability to follow a task from start to finish.”

She said the new system allows for a self-motivating rehab session.

“Patients have to stand for an entire game of bowling, but the fact that there is some fun involved helps motivate the patient to follow through,” Matherne said. “We always try to make therapy sessions fun and challenging. The use of the Wii has made this easier for us because it really helps when the patient is looking forward to their session.”

Thibodaux Regional Medical Center isn’t the only facility that has welcomed the use of the trend-setting technology.

The Terrebonne Parish Library System offers exercise sessions twice a month for senior citizens using the Nintendo Wii. Classes are scheduled for 2 to 3:30 p.m. the second Monday in the large meeting room of the Terrebonne Parish Main Library, 151 Library Drive, Houma.

“It’s a chance for senior citizens to meet new people, socialize and have a good time while they exercise,” said Sarah Stewart, circulation clerk and Nintendo Wii presenter. “We also have a golf program if we have any retired golfers out there who would like to set up a session with the library.”

Karen Brunet from the East Houma Branch library said the gaming system can be requested for any Terrebonne Parish Branch library if enough interest is expressed in such a program.

“It’s a new element in the therapeutic world, and we will continue to use it as long as we have patients that are appropriate for its use,” Ledet said. “Our mission is to improve quality of life and maximize a person’s ability to perform daily tasks. We assist patients in developing new skills, relearning lost skills and making adjustments in their everyday lives.”

For information on Thibodaux Regional’s Rehabilitation Services/Programs, call 493-4435 or 493-4782 or visit www.thibodaux.com/rehabilitation.html. A physician’s prescription is needed for outpatient services.

For information on the senior-citizen exercise program at the Terrebonne Parish Main Library, call 876-5861. Registration is not required and the program is free and open to the public.

29 November 2008

Exercise the Wii way

Senior citizens’ therapy utilizes game system

Willietta Jackson, right, an occupational therapist assistant, helps Golden Living Center resident Claudia Demarnville use the Wii controller during a game of bowling.

Many years ago it was bowling alleys, heavy balls, and goofy shoes. These days, all she needs is a small controller, her Nintendo game system and a television.

“I always liked bowling,” said the rehabilitation patient at the Golden Living Center in Edwardsville about the Nintendo Wii bowling game. “I’d never heard of it before coming here. I enjoy it more. It’s good for my arm.”

Neff is just one of several Golden Living residents taking advantage of a new rehabilitation activity the center now offers. In July, the center’s therapists began using the Nintendo Wii, which is a video game system that has players physically move a hand-held controller to control the game’s action, as part of their physical therapy sessions.

“It can get boring at times,” said Armi Pecana, rehabilitation program coordinator for the center. “We try to change exercises, but it’s still exercise. (The Wii) is just a fun thing to do for everyone.”

Pecana said that the motions the patients make with the Wii controller help with problems such as balance, coordination and range of motion. The repetitive movement of rolling a bowling ball or casting a fishing line, Pecana said, are similar to other, traditional exercises, but with a more interesting twist.

The most popular games among the center’s residents are bowling, fishing, hunting and pool. Pecana said even the patients who don’t always participate in the games enjoy watching others play, and act as a cheering section for the competitors. In addition to therapy sessions the game system is used in recreation and social activities.

“They feel a sense of self-satisfaction,” said Patti Young, facility director, as she watches one patient throw her hands in the air in celebration of a strike. “They smile more than with traditional therapy.”

Friday morning therapy has become something to look forward to, Young said in a T-shirt that shows the iconic Rosie the Riveter holding a Wii controller with the slogan, “Wii can do it.” Between the snacks of popcorn and fruit to the cheering and game-playing, Young said the center is full of energy when the Wii is turned on.

The idea for using the Wii, Young said, came from the director of operations for the entire Golden Living community after reading about other places across the country that had already started the program. In addition to the Edwardsville location, the Golden Living Center in Lansing has also started its own Wii program.

Young said the installation of the Wii program is relevant as a younger generation enters the work force. She said technology is becoming more important and the center wants to move forward and take advantage of that whenever possible.

Because of the success of the Wii program, Young said she’s got big plans for the future. She would like to purchase a music game so the center could form a community band and members could play different instruments. She also thinks that a dance game might be appropriate for some patients.

“I think it’s very progressive step, utilizing technology with our senior population,” Young said. “As our population changes and we see more baby boomers with their cell phones and wireless Internet, we need to adapt.”

Know pains, know games

Get up, sit down, take a step, reach across your body.
Sounds simple enough, but not when you’re hurting.

Now imagine the mental drudgery of having to repeat grunt-and-groan exercises multiple times using those same physical tasks in order to stop the pain. It demands work that can be flat-out boring.

But in the past couple of years, physical therapists across the country have begun using Nintendo Wii (pronounced “we”) video games to make getting up off the couch a lot easier—physically and mentally. Some in the profession have nicknamed it “Wii-habilitation.”

Dr. Lori Anderson, physical therapist in the rehabilitation department at Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital, came across the idea at the Minnesota State Fair last summer when she stopped by the American Physical Therapy Association booth. She gave the games a try and liked them so much she bought one for herself.

In October, as part of National Physical Therapy Month and their slogan “it’s all about movement,” Anderson took her personal Wii game to work. She wanted to give it a test run with physical therapy patients and nursing home residents.

The game was an instant hit. She said a couple of the nursing home residents tried it and talked about it for days.

“The patients really love it. They find it fun and don’t feel like they’re exercising,” she explained.

The video technology allows participants to play virtual sports games and simulate other physical activities on a television monitor by using a wireless hand-held controller. Players move their arms and legs, and shift their weight in motions that replicate their use for the sport or activity.

Anderson said the games benefit people who have neurological problems like traumatic brain injuries or strokes. But the games are also good for reconditioning general strength and endurance, post-surgical recovery and spinal cord injuries. The activities are well-suited for geriatrics at risk of falling or who have sustained a fall, and those in need of basic eye-hand coordination. The physical movement required increases and strengthens heart rate.

Beyond the physical benefits, the games are a particularly refreshing alternative to traditional forms of therapy that can be viewed as monotonous and dull.

According to Anderson, motivating patients is one of a therapist’s biggest challenges. But the Wii games have a magic touch.

“Just getting patients to stand up can be mundane,” she said. “But if you have them bowling [with Wii] they don’t want to sit down until that game is done.”

Along with bowling, games include sports like tennis, baseball, golf and boxing.

Other versions of Wii focus on balance for activities such as skiing, snowboarding, soccer and hula-hooping. Players actually stand on a balance board and practice shifting their weight.

“Many people don’t realize how poor their balance is. They also don’t realize that balance is a skill and it gets better with practice,” Anderson said.

What’s more, she said patients derive inspiration because the game keeps score and they can assess their progress.

The Cook Hospital has been using Wii games in their nursing home and for adult day services for about two years.

According to Director of Rehabilitation Brian McCarthy, the activities for the adult day services keep patients from “just sitting around at home.”

“The key as we age is to keep moving and Wii games have been a great help,” he said.

Additionally, residents who are wheelchair-bound in the nursing home have discovered a variety of activities to do from their chairs, like bowling. McCarthy said interest in the games has really improved resident participation overall.

“When patients participate with Wii, they’re much more alert and it’s much more fun than standard therapy like reaching up to put a ring on a cone.”

He added that he knows of some nursing homes that have established bowling leagues for wheelchair residents.

Though often thought of as kids’ entertainment, Wii systems are cross-generational and suitable for therapy in all age groups.

Ely resident Phyllis Kurre-Post is one of Anderson’s therapy patients at EBCH. Kurre-Post suffered a broken vertebra and ribs from a fall, and her balance and leg strength have weakened over time. But she’s becoming somewhat of an aficionado at the Wii bowling game.

During their therapy sessions, Anderson helps her shift weight from side to side when sending “the ball” down the alley. Getting a feel for when to release the controller button also helps improve Kurre-Post’s eye-hand coordination. She said she thinks it’s beneficial.

“It’s been quite interesting,” Kurre-Post said, then added, “I don’t do much at home other than walk, so I better keep coming here.”

Her husband, Gus Post, said he hopes she regains her ability to walk independently with less fear of falling, especially in winter.

“Icy weather is a concern. It gets tough here in Ely,” he said.

For children, the games can help enhance overall motor skills and coordination, and reduce clumsiness sometimes associated with childhood development. Kids who might have avoided conventional sports can find the games exciting, too.

Both Anderson and McCarthy see definite therapeutic potential.

Anderson said the hospital hasn’t purchased any Wii games yet for the EBCH therapy department, so until then she’ll continue to bring hers in periodically.

However, she said the price for Wii games is often affordable and patients can continue their rehabilitation at home. She estimated a start-up system, which includes the sports games, runs about $250. Add-on games and associated equipment for specific sports usually range from $40-$80.

“When you consider the cost of traditional therapy equipment, Wii games are a decent price that can be used for a wide variety of patient therapy and diagnosing,” she said.

With the holidays around the corner, the games could be a stocking stuffer to bond family members of all ages for entertainment and a healthier New Year.


Video games keep patients engaged

While nobody is recommending joint replacement as an enjoyable option for your next vacation, the often-arduous rehabilitation process just got a lot more fun.
Patients at the Westland House in Monterey are improving their strength, balance, dexterity, coordination and flexibility by playing games on Wii, Nintendo's virtual-reality video experience that allows players to simulate the physical actions of activities like tennis, boxing, golf, baseball, soccer, bowling and a multitude of others.

The physical motions necessary to play those games on the Wii system are proving to be effective treatment for a wide range of rehabilitation clients, including those recovering from strokes, joint surgery and brain-injuries, as well as people who suffer from acute and chronic pain.

"This doesn't replace any of the rehabilitation techniques we've been using, but it's a valuable adjunct to what we're doing here," said physical therapist Sherry Brient, rehabilitation supervisor at Westland House. "These are being used nowadays at schools, convalescent homes, senior centers. More recently, the rehab community has discovered Wii as a good tool to enhance the rehab process. We initially had a loaner here, but we liked it so much that we bought our own system."

A hand-held control interacts with a receiver. A television screen shows an opponent — a tennis player, a boxer, a baseball pitcher. Or a golf course. Or a realistic bowling lane with pins waiting at the opposite



"I actually worked with a man who had been a boxer when he was younger, so we tried him out with the boxing game," said Tony Fusco, an occupational therapist at Westland House. "He was dealing with some brain issues, and it was the first time I ever got a smile, or any kind of real reaction out of him."

Unathletic can benefit

The enjoyment factor is a major part of the reason rehabilitation specialists are sold on the Wii as a therapy tool. Routine exercises — weight training, aerobics, etc. — that are designed to help a patient regain strength, balance, endurance, flexibility, dexterity and coordination often can become tedious. The patient can lose interest.

"It keeps the person entertained, more involved in their care," said Shilpa Oza, an occupational therapist. "They're having fun while they're exercising, so they tend to be much more engaged in what they're doing."

People with no athletic history, and little ability, can benefit from Wii and enjoy the games, because many of the game programs are designed to accommodate various ability levels. Ex-athletes and weekend warriors are naturally enamored.

"It works really well because a lot of our patients have a history with some of the sports that are available on Wii," Fusco said. "They like to play, they have some skills, and it's realistic for them. I've worked with a lot of tennis players, a lot of golfers, a lot of bowlers."

Kate Staples, a Seaside resident who suffered a stroke about a month ago, carried a 160 average as a young bowler and was excited to add Wii's bowling game to her rehabilitation.

"It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it a lot more, both mentally and physically, than the regular exercises," she said. "I wasn't very good at it because it's a little bit different than real bowling, but it gave me confidence because it helped me regain some of my balance."

Programs measure balance

Pacific Grove resident Daphne Winters, another stroke victim, hasn't bowled since she was "in my 20s," she said, but fell in love with Wii during her physical therapy sessions.

"I did a lot of other kinds of exercises, like walking on a treadmill with my legs tied together with elastic, but the bowling was great. I got three strikes in a row," she said with a laugh. "I had to work at it a little bit, though, before I could figure out how to get the curve back in my ball."

Specific programs are designed to measure a person's balance. In one game, the player walks on a virtual balance beam, watching his cartoon counterpart move across the video screen. Too much weight on one foot will cause the cartoon character to lean to one side, waving his arms frantically, as if to regain balance. Over-adjust, and the character wobbles the opposite way.

Another balance-oriented program shows the cartoon character standing on a round disc. The player attempts to maneuver a ball into a hole in the disc by adjusting his balance to tilt the platform. If balance is poor, the ball will roll off.

"We can learn things about the patient by watching them as they play," Fusco said. "We can see whether they have issues with hand-eye coordination, or cognition. We can see how they process some of the instructions. A lot of games are too difficult for certain patients, but we can modify the games to accommodate those people."

One of the most-attractive aspects of using the Wii as an enhancement to normal physical-therapy methods is that the games can be played at home, after treatment at the Westland House has ended. Some patients purchase a unit for home use and use it as a viable and fun way to exercise.

"We've had a lot of patients who, when they're done here, say 'I'd love to get one of these,'" Brient said.

For those without hands, there's Air Guitar Hero

20 November 2008—Rehabilitation specialists have taken to Nintendo’s Wii game console as a way to help motivate patients during physical therapy and rehabilitation. The latest addition to the Wii-hab phenomenon is perhaps its coolest—Air Guitar Hero. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have made the popular Guitar Hero game into a tool for amputees who are being fitted with the next generation of artificial arms. With a few electrodes and some very powerful algorithms, amputees can hit all the notes of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” using only the electrical signals from their residual muscles.

The new research, which will be presented this Friday at the IEEE Biomedical Circuits and Systems Conference, in Baltimore, is one component of a program sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Revolutionizing Prosthetics (RP) 2009 project, spread over 30 research institutions worldwide and led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, Md., is developing a mechanical arm that closely mimics the properties of a real limb.

Besides developing two prototype mechanical arms, the project has also pioneered a nerve surgery for controlling the limbs. The nerves that once controlled an amputee’s arm are still intact even after the limb is lost. By rerouting these nerves into the chest muscles and affixing electrodes to pick up the electromyographic (EMG) signals, the RP 2009 researchers were able to use those signals to control a mechanical arm. As a result, the user feels as if he were controlling his own arm.

Though the surgery has worked so far to move an arm with six degrees of freedom, that arm still cannot enable individual finger movement—the ultimate goal of the project.

Dexterous motion of individual fingers poses a tricky software problem. To establish a clear link between mind and machine, the software that translates between EMG signals and the mechanical arm must be trained to understand what the different muscle signals mean. Pattern-recognition algorithms have to be trained by correlating input signal patterns (from muscle contractions) with the intended outputs (opening the mechanical index finger).

The amputee does this training with the help of what’s called a Virtual Integration Environment (VIE)—a virtual-reality training tool in which an onscreen animated arm mimics the user’s intended movements in real time, based on inputs from multiple electrodes attached to the user’s residual arm.

For the training, you sit in front of a screen and obey repeated commands to “close ring finger,” “open index finger,” “close middle finger,” and so on, to get the machine to create an accurate map of your singular myoelectric control mechanisms. What the algorithms and training programs are there to do is to map the subjective experience of the amputee flexing a ring finger to the movements of the virtual arm in the VIE.

That’s a lot harder than it might seem. The trouble comes when the myoelectric impulses of one finger need to be separated from the others. Press your thumb against your middle finger, and you’ll see the problem. If you can’t even easily actuate separate fingers with your native hand, how exactly is an algorithm supposed to figure out an amputee’s intentions from muscles in the chest or upper arm? And, because a movement might be slightly different every time you do it, it needs to be repeated countless times during training for the control algorithm to latch onto the essential signal.

That calibration and training process is as tedious as it is discouraging. “By 3 p.m.,” says APL engineer Robert Armiger, “[DARPA volunteer and double amputee] Jesse [Sullivan] has had lunch, and he’s tired, just like you and I are tired after working all day. It’s hard for him to keep his concentration up.” Further motivation was needed.

The researchers had experimented with games before, notably a variation on Pong. You could move the Pong paddle by “opening and closing” your virtual hand, but that movement is not relevant to opening and closing individual fingers. Though playing the game worked better than simply obeying repetitive commands, Armiger says it was useless for calibrating fine motor control. He also wanted a game with metrics that were a bit more real-world compatible. In the context of prosthetics, that would mean activating muscles to open and close “fingers” in real time, reacting quickly to a stimulus.

Inspired by Wii-hab, Armiger and colleague Jacob Vogelstein borrowed a colleague’s copy of Guitar Hero and attacked the controller with a soldering iron. They rewired the standard guitar-shaped controller to take instructions from the VIE.

Next they substituted muscle contractions for button presses. In particular, they had to rejigger the inputs. Two-handed gamers normally play by using one hand to press colored “fret” buttons to correspond to the correct notes while using the other hand to push a “strum” button in time with the note. Onscreen, these same five colored buttons scroll down the display in time with the notes the players are supposed to hit. To correctly play a note, the player must press the right color fret button and the strum button with the opposite hand.

But Vogelstein and Armiger wanted to use the game to train an amputee. So first they needed to make the game’s controls one-handed. They did that by wiring the two controls together so that an input from a muscle contraction would be read by the VIE as a simultaneous “fret” and “strum.”
For the research reported this week, Armiger and Vogelstein used three normally limbed volunteers, and only three of the five fret keys were used: red, green, and yellow. Once the skin on the subjects’ upper arms was wired up with about 10 electrodes, the subjects could control the keys by moving their fingers: for the red key, they pressed the tip of their index finger to the tip of their thumb; for the green key, the middle finger; and for the yellow key, the ring finger. After five trials, the three research subjects scored between 50 and 70 percent on the game’s “easy” setting.

In mid-October, Armiger and Vogelstein traveled to RP 2009 partner Duke University, in Durham, N.C., to test the system on its target demographic, in this case Iraq veteran Jon Kuniholm. Kuniholm’s right hand was lost to shrapnel three years ago. About to finish his Ph.D. at Duke’s Center for Biologically Inspired Materials and Material Systems, Kuniholm has been a volunteer for the DARPA program for the past two years and is the outspoken founder of the Open Prosthetics Project, an open-source Web site, independent of DARPA, that aims to make prosthetic-arm technology as open source and collaborative as Linux and Firefox.

With electrodes attached to his residual arm, Kuniholm was able to operate the frets using signals from the muscles there. “It’s fun,” says Kuniholm, who achieved the highest score reported by the experimental subjects: 70 percent. Kuniholm says that while Air Guitar Hero is the only game so far that requires individual finger movement to train an amputee to deal with those muscles again, the real success is in striving for a realistic goal. “You’re doing something simple,” he says. “It’s not rocket science. But you have to do it fast and you have to time it right.”

Kuniholm has big plans for Air Guitar Hero. He and Armiger want to use it to train people who use less advanced commercially available artificial arms. Kuniholm’s goal with the Open Prosthetics Project is to create tools that will prime the pump of prosthetics innovation but “won’t consist of several thousand dollars of computing equipment.” In fact, DARPA is in the process of making the APL-created video-game interface software open source, Kuniholm says, “so that we can all begin hacking away.” He hopes to have the source code available for prosthetics control beginning in January. “We’re in the process of getting some more data and experience with it,” he says. The next step is finding lead users at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. “But Air Guitar Hero is just a demo,” he insists. “We want to get this platform out there so people can start downloading it and start modifying other games.”

For their next game-interface modification, the APL team is eyeing Wii Tennis so that people with more radical amputations can also benefit from the motivating powers of the Wii. “We want Jesse to be able to play, too,” says Vogelstein.

The real goal is to get the software into as many hands as possible, Kuniholm says. And in that sense, the story of Air Guitar Hero mirrors the larger Revolutionizing Prosthetics project. In the end, DARPA and Johns Hopkins want to make both the arm’s hardware and the interface software, including the VIE, open source so that prosthetic-arm research innovation can evolve organically.

27 November 2008

HULA Animal Rescue Fundraiser

Once i heard how much the credit crunch was affecting HULA, with so many animals coming in with medical problems and too little money to care for them, I knew i had to do something - but what? I knew it had to be big enough and scarey enough to raise as much as possible.

I have Cerebral Palsy. As babies, we have a startle response and as we get older our brain learns to control it. With Cerebral Palsy my brain cannot inhibit the response, so the slightest thing can make me jump (Baloons popping, champagne corks, flashes and worst of all........fireworks! The startle response is so embarrasing and painful that i have become phobic about the things that make me jump, so in all my life i had only been to a few fireworks displays, one of which made me cry!

So what better way to raise money for HULA than to face my fears and go to a fireworks display (my best friend suggested gleefully with a wicked grin!) So i went for it, with a target of £1000. My sister was really supportive and began to generate as much interest as possible. Before i knew it, I had been on BBC 3 counties radio and had my picture in the Milton Keynes Citizen. Four days before the fireworks i looked at myself in the paper and thought "Oh my goodness, there is no way i can back out now!"

So when the night came i felt a mixture of excitment and fear. For inspiration i went on to the HULA website and read Simon's story - he was abandoned in the car park at the sanctuary. Wiping away the tears, that was all the encouragement i needed!

A few hours and alcoholic drinks later i was ready. My sister told the Horizon radio guys that i was there and the adrenilin kicked in. The countdown started. I tried to get myself as energized as i could and then...........BANG!!! I managed to just about stay in my wheelchair! The bangs became louder and more intense and i was gagging with the fear going through me but the accompanying music was breathtaking and it soon began to feel more spiritual and uplifting, realising that i had conquered such a terrible fear and proved that every one who sponsored me was right to believe in me.

In total i raised £600 for HULA. I feel i have a new lease of life and so much more to give.

23 November 2008

Paralympic Games

This past weekend I had a chance to watch the paralympic games for the first time in my life. It was amazing for me to watch these athletes. They moved with such grace and determination. Such dignity, confidence and respect for themselves. With and without prostheses. In wheelchair and without. All with one goal in mind, to accomplish the unaccomplishable! To prove to themselves first, and to the world second, that they could stand up before the world and shine with glory! To show the world that they were no different-
There is so much we as disable people can do. But we need the world to soften. We need the world to accept us more. we need the world to look at us the same way we look at ourselves- And, most importantly we need to be given chances and opportunities-
We need the world to not look at us with pity, disgrace, or contempt- or as though we are leopards, in a leopards colony. We need society to respect us- we need society to allow us to try and to pick ourselves up and try, try again. And, we need the gift and blessing of the world to help us climb every mountain and to help us reach every dream!

18 November 2008

Greetings from the most inflexible yoga teacher

by Danielle Hope Hier, Tampa Bay Yoga Examiner

I am a yoga teacher...No, really. It's true, though you wouldn't think so. In fact, If I could go back in time, my high school yearbook should have read, "The least likely person on the planet to ever become a yoga instructor."


Last year, a neurosurgeon looked - dumbfounded - at my MRI following a car accident, saying the that person on the Xrays should be on the operating table at that moment, not touching her toes, swimming, dancing, lifting weights and having a greater level of mobility than the average - uninjured - person.

"Whatever you're doing," He informed me. "Keep doing it. Because, it seems to be working for you."

What I was "doing" was teaching and practicing yoga.

Born with scoliosis that not only came with a curved spine, but also a reversed curve in my neck, a shortened hamstring, misaligned hips and shoulders and extra pressure on my lungs (leaving me prone to allergies, sinus and bronchial infections), I was the kid in high school gym class who could barely touch her kneecaps (vs. toes) and had asthma-like reactions to exercise.

Now, I was being told that I additionally had a torn shoulder and a herniated disk in my low back...Not a great overall diagnosis for someone who earns a living keeping people healthy and fit.

Refusing to admit defeat, I tailored my practice and kept moving.

The results?

In a strange twist (corny pun intended), I began working a local neuromuscular center designed to provide yoga for those recovering from back and neck injuries, or dealing with ailments such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, spinal stenosis. And in my advanced classes, I could lead students through poses that my body didn't want to do, but were appropriate for them.

My point here is that when people say to me, "I wish I could do yoga, but I'm not that flexible" or, "I can't do yoga, because I'm too...[insert appropriate reason: injured, overweight, old]" I try to impress upon them that if it is something they want to learn, it can be adapted, even if that means teaching yoga from a chair vs. standing, or using props (like tables, chairs, blocks or yoga straps) that help facilitate stretching and balance.

Also, the physical practice of yoga (known as "Hatha" [pronounced: Hah-Tah] , is only one aspect of an entire philosophy, and is subject to interpretation. Therefore, assuming that yoga is only one way, is a misunderstanding. And, within that aspect are a million and one styles of yoga (like world religions and music), that translate into very specific methods.

So, while a person studying Ashtanga might be more interested in power, strength and cardiovascular development, someone studying Kundalini might be more in tune with kirtan (chanting) and energy-building excecises.

Do I think that means that all yoga classes are suitable for everyone all the time?

No, of course not.

However, I would offer that there is a class out there specifically for you (be it in physical practice, devotional studies or community service). Listed below are some resources for finding an appropriate school in your area.

For more info: www.birdlandyoga.com, www.iayt.org, www.yoganetwork.org, www.yogafamily.com

Vital: Music therapy changes Beth's life

WHEN doctors told Angela Campbell and David Fargher their daughter had cerebral palsy, they were devastated.

But there was another shock to come as a result of her brain injury-which is thought to have been caused by complications at birth - because Beth also had epilepsy.

At first the couple from Hillington, in Glasgow, struggled with Beth's conditions. She used to have up to 100 seizures a day.

Mum Angela, 37, said: "Beth can't sit up, stand, walk or feed herself. She's totally dependent on us. It can be really challenging and difficult at times.

"We go through good and bad spells. When Beth has a seizure it can last several minutes, but fortunately she doesn't know what's happening. I talk to her until she comes round."

But recently Angela, a former employee of Glasgow city council, and David, who works in construction, have seen a big improvement in their daughter.

And that's largely down to her regular music therapy sessions run by Nordoff-Robbins, recommended to them by a friend.

Angela describes the programme as "life-changing".

Both she and David have seen five-year-old Beth develop beyond their expectations since she first started weekly classes in February 2007.

And it is not just wheelchair bound Beth - who now has up to 12 seizures a day - who has benefited. Mum Angela has too.

Under the direction of the charity's music therapist Mary Veal, Beth and Angela play songs together using instruments including guitars and banjos. The mum-of-one, who has given up work to become her daughter's full-time carer, added: "Beth loves listening to music.

"When she's really upset, we play her a song and it calms her down. Her whole face lights up "So we gave Nordoff-Robbins music therapy a try and it really works for her.

"I have noticed a huge difference in Beth, particularly with sensory issues. She didn't used to like to touch or be touched. Now she does, she's focusing more and she follows you around the room.

"She wasn't able to do that before. There is still so much she can't do but she has progressed.

She has come on in leaps and bounds and it's down to the music therapy sessions.

"They have changed the way Beth is and I'd like to thank them for all their help."

One woman partly responsible for Beth's development over the last 20 months is Nordoff-Robbins' music therapist Mary Veal. Angela and David are indebted to Mary for her "patience and perseverance".

Angela added: "Mary has helped us immensely with Beth. She's brilliant at her job and has made a huge difference.

"I owe her a lot. Before we went to the sessions, Beth was upset all the time and wouldn't settle. It was so tiring, but the music sessions have made her a lot calmer.

"To see Beth enjoy something so much has been great."

Mary, head of region for Nordoff-Robbins, said: "We are not there to improve a child's ability to play a musical instrument, we are there to improve their movement and encourage them to have fun.

"Everyone has an inherent ability to respond to music. It motivates and sustains concentration.

"We create an environment so it empowers the parents. They have an opportunity to play with their children and engage with them.

"The best thing is becoming less needed in the sessions, but having the opportunity to share this unique experience."

Nordoff-Robbins, which receives no statutory funding, is to receive a boost this weekend as all proceeds from Saturday's Tartan Clef Awards will go to towards the children's charity's running costs, which top £400,000 each year.

Last year the Awards generated aquarter of that total, and this time organisers are hoping they can smash the £100,000 target.

For more information on Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy in Scotland and the Tartan Clef Music Awards, log on to www.nordoff-robbins.co.uk or www.tartanclef.org. Donations to the charity can be made by logging on to the website and clicking on 'donations'.

Been so long since I last wrote

Think the last time I posted on blog, was the beginning of summer, way back in June or July. How has the time flown by so quick! I began August with a holiday in Blackpool at a Haven Holiday Park. It turned out to be a bit disappointing. I booked a wheelchair accessible caravan for a week stay costing over £600. I expected the interior of the caravan to be of a high standard and good adaptions in place, in the bathroom. To my dismay, the toilet seat was pratically of it's hinges. And the curtains in the living room were hanging down, while the TV remote control was held together by duck tape. Not what I expected for money I paid. After complaining to management, the toilet seat was repaired promptly. But, using the shower cubicle was difficult. The shower tray was raised of the floor. There was a shower seat attached to the wall, but it wasn't very wide and had no side arms, so I felt very unsafe. Staff at the Holiday Park had information to hire equipment. I decided to hire a shower chair. The chair was delivered, and as soon as I saw it I knew it would be unsuitable for me. It was far to high and tilted forward. We then placed an ordinary white garden chair in the shower tray. The white garden chair proved to be strong, sturdy and the right height. I also hired an electric wheelchair for our stay in Blackpool at the cost of £72 for the whole week. By Thursday, the seat of the chair started rocking, and eventually, came of completely. One of the holiday parks security guards became aware of the problem. On close inspection he informed us, the seat had been attached by washers only, instead of screws. In his disgust, he got the hire company to give a full refund. which they did.

16 November 2008

Wii fit Rehab

CoreTx for Stroke Rehab

CoreTx is a nifty wireless device that is intended to be used by stroke victims to help restore controlled limb movement. Working with gyroscopic technology similar to the one inside of a Nintendo Wii controller, the unit tracks the precision and speed of a limb's movement and provides feedback to the user.

Core:Tx® is a software and hardware system that interfaces with a patient, giving him or her real-time feedback on the position and movement of selected joints. At the same time this system provides the clinician with valuable objective data on the patient’s performance and abilities.

Used under the guidance of a therapist or healthcare professional, Core:Tx turns rehabilitation into a wireless, game-like challenge that is entertaining and works for a variety of patients recovering from neuromuscular conditions as well as joint injuries. The Core:Tx system is compatible with and enhances existing rehabilitation, preventative and strengthening protocols.

Wii Fit, The Balance Board and Its Role in Physical Therapy

There is no doubt that the Wii Fit has becoming something of a gaming phenomenon. In fact it has become completely synonymous with the Wii console itself, a kind of flagship title which rivals Microsoft and Sony can only gaze upon in envy.
Its success is due to the fact that its appeal is wide, it appeals to both the old and young and most importantly it reaches people who are not traditional gamers. In fact it's probably fair to say that Wii Fit fans will never have played on a home gaming console before.
This across the board appeal has been well documented elsewhere, yet one area which is still in its infancy is the idea of Wii Fit being used as a serious tool in the medical sphere.
The game is starting to find fans in hospitals, old people's homes and physiotherapy units across the world and both patients and staff alike are starting to see the benefits.
22 year old Nathan Ellis from Lancashire, England suffered horrific injuries to his limbs when he was unfortunately hit by a car. Thankfully he survived, and as a 12 month stretch of physiotherapy loomed Nathan suggested that using Wii Fit as opposed to traditional methods of physiotherapy may provide the necessary fun factor which would help him get through the long and occasionally painful treatment sessions.
The idea was a deemed a great success and resulted in both the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospitals in the North West of England introducing Wii Fit as a legitimate tool to assist their younger patients requiring physiotherapy.
Lesley Walters, the head of physiotherapy at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, recognised that by adopting play or diversion techniques you can assist children to overcome discomfort and stiffness whilst undergoing physical therapy.
At the other end of the age spectrum, the elderly have also discovered Wii Fit provides a great activity with some residents deciding that knitting and bridge are out and Wii Fit and the Balance Board are in.
Some staff members at the WilMed Nursing Home in Milwaukee USA had the game at home, and decided that some of their residents may enjoy it. They were right.
It proved to be a big hit with residents even up to the age of 84, with resident Everlyn Dawson getting out of her wheelchair to try her hand at bowling. Although she initially got a nothing more than a 'gutter ball' she smiled and with determination said "I hope I am getting better at bowling, it's certainly a lot of fun. It's nice and I look forward to doing it.'
And it's not just the gaming scores which are seeing improvement, Susan Swain, the in house physical therapy assistant, feels that an improvement in hand eye co-ordination is noticeable too, and most importantly, there are a lot more smiles too.
So far we have looked at two examples of how the Wii Fit can be of use in two separate environments which are at opposite ends of the age spectrum. Finally it is worth adding that Wii Fit is also being adopted as a method of physio therapy for athletes in recovery from a variety of sports related injuries.
Sue Stanley-Green, a professor of athletic training at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, told Reuters Health, 'We are looking to incorporate Wii Fit into the athletic training room as far as rehabilitation, for example, on post-operative knees and ankles.' It is the fun aspect of Wii Fit which makes the game so attractive for this purpose, with many people finding it takes the repetition and monotony away from such exercises
These three areas have all utilised Nintendo's Wii Fit either as a means to provide fun and entertainment for the elderly, a method of distraction for youngsters undergoing sometimes painful physiotherapy , or athletes who find repetitive exercises easier to swallow when then they are coated in the fun guise of the Wii Fit.
Whatever you think of the Wii Fit, it's surely going to be a long time before another game will have both the same level of appeal and functionality.

Owen Taylor is a long time fan of the Wii console and takes a special interest in the Wii Fit game, he has found it's mixture of gaming and exercise a revelation and loves to spread the word.
He contributes to a website called http://WiiFitFrenzy.co.uk which offers a fantastic Nintendo Wii Fit Stock Finder for those who are looking for UK and US Wii Fits.
You will also find News, Games and Accessories as well as a comprehensive FAQ/Help Guide.

Speedy recovery

Well it seems like it has been a while since I wrote and I know it has been, I have had some highs and lows this last couple of weeks, and it started of with my best friend Daniel, who you may of read about in previous writings, well he recently had to undergo further spinal surgey due to his pelvis twisting, so he had to have more metal work put in, and although it was a big operation, he was home in no time and on the road to recovery, I have kept uptodate with his progress by phone and last week I had the greatest day because I logged on to my computer and webcam and got to see for my self how great he is doing Way to go Daniel!!!!! keep on keeping on mate

Then have had had a bit of a rough time with a chest infection and I had to have some time off work, so it shows how bad it was because it is ages since I have been on the sick from work, but following the infection I developed servere pain in my left hip and my Physio thought it might be a hernia from all the coughing I had been doing, so I ws off again to the doctors but luckily everything was ok. Although I still had the pain and it wasn't getting any better so I decided to go and see my othropedic consultant, who has looked after me for many years now.

After a full examination I had to go for an xray and I am and then the look of worry came and I was sent for an ultrasound scan of my pelvis to check for any infection, which could be the cause of the pain, but luckily it came back ok!!! a sigh of relive I can tell you, and now I have been given the all clear I am waiting to see my Physio and see if we can settle things down a bit as its still really painful.

Driving With Hand Controls and Maneuvering Confidently

Back when I was in high school, I remember taking a drivers ed class. I was thrilled and nervous because I was going to be able to drive a car just like my mother, and sister, despite my Cerebral Palsy. What a sense of pleasure and excitement it gave me. Taking this huge, step forward in my life, also took my emotions on a roller coaster ride. My stomach fluttered like the wings of a butterfly, . I subconsciously knew this was an enormous, gigantic, and monumental responsibility and a big step for me; especially knowing that I had lost my lower left quadrant of peripheral vision due to my brain damage as a baby.

Although, I also knew getting my license would give me more freedom to get around the city, and to become more independent to do more of the things I’d desired to do. It would allow me to go shopping to buy pretty new clothes, or get my nails done:>))))) , or, even taken care of errands. It would be a high-schoolers dream come true! It would also allow me to soar like an eagle in the sky.

In the beginning, I was taught to drive in a simulated car. This was inside a bungalow where a big screen was set up. It was equipped with hand controls and ready for all students, such as myself, to take a seat and start driving. It was pretty cool. Its almost like the arcade driving games they have today. Anyway’s the instructors were ready for their willing participants to get behind the wheel-so they could teach them all they new about handling a car with care. Thus, the disabled students of Joseph Pomery Widney High school were immediately available to learn.

The first time I took the wheel of the car, it was amazing! I did it with little dough in my heart. I even remember the kind of car it was. It was a white, all electric power Plymouth. It had power windows, power breaks and just too cool for words. And I, Karen, Lynn Hershkowitz, got behind the wheels. I was not intimidated at all. With confidence, I adjusted the seat to my legs and comfort, adjusted my rear view mirrors and off the campus grounds I drove. The instructor told me where to go and I went.

I used my steering knob with ease. It became an extension of how freely I could control my steering wheel with one hand. It enabled me to drive down a straight streets and maneuver corners with ease- Although, I was one of the privileged few to be able to use one; as they became illegal to drivers back in the fifties. Teens back then called then knicker knobs. And they were not made as mine was. They were flimsily, and if someone got their wrist caught inside the mental part of the attachment, it could injured them badly. So only those who were legally told they could use them for assistance did.

One day I was taking a driving lesson, I was driving down Grand Avenue, going towards Angels Hill, when a buss pulled out in front of me forcing me to pull to the left and think quickly. I performed with confidence. And, I was quick, too! I had my foot on that break before the instructor could say a peep! I maneuvered that huge car like I had been driving for years. I proved to the teacher I had quick thinking. I also proved to the instructor that I could carefully move the car to the left with safety.

Making Peace with Your Past

Have you ever been awaken from a deep sleep only to have some experience or thought from the past starring you in the face? Didn’t you think you’d got rid of what ever was haunting you long time ago, or did you just berry them deep within the crevasse of your being?

Well, earlier this morning, I experienced just this- I was forced to look at myself, squarely between my eyes. I was forced to look at these areas of my life that resurfaced again. I was forced to clean house, look at my motives- if any, and finally make peace within myself.

I had to! I had to honestly look at these past experiences and finally find a way to heal- I had glimpse- glimpse that I had a choice. I could either continue to ignore them, and not find a positive resolution to what was hurting me so severely, and deeply within my core and being, or I could resolve them.

I could release these lasting impressions that creped upon my mind time and again for what ever reason they did. I could turn my life and feelings around by facing them. I could release the residue of these past feelings through acceptance. Acceptance could be my road to peace and harmony. Acceptance could be my friend if I let it-

I could let go of the worst, hold on to only the best- and determine to find hope inside my heart and mind- and I could allow it to continue throughout my life.

Reginia Hill says…"Acceptance is the heart’s best defense, love’s greatest asset, and the easiest way to keep believing in yourself and others."

So that is what I decided!

Yes, my thoughts greeted me today- And, yes, they said …"hello, - But its what I did with those thoughts- Its how I took my feelings, and how I turned my situation around - Its how I allowed my healing process within to begin- And, its how I empowered myself to be more positive- Its how I decided to think differently- and how I decided to change for the better!

Yes, It’s not easy! Although, I’ve learned, that admitting my problems to myself is a whole lot easier and less painful than denying it to myself. It is so much easier to accept that a long time ago such and such was done and said, and, that I was not to happy or impressed with how I handled the situation at hand.

But, its how I decide to deal with it. Its how I decide to use this given opportunity to my fullest potential!… it’s how I can make and turn this particular situation around! Its how I can make it feel right within the core of my being- Its through the learning and accepting that makes me feel whole and complete again- It’s not about tearing myself down or apart for not say the right thing at the right, given moment- Its about being gentle with myself and making peace with myself through acceptance.

Well, this morning I awoke that way, and have not been able to sleep since. I woke up only to realize I had some very important business to take care of. I realized that I better do some more homework on myself- I realized that I had some very important mental and emotional housekeeping to do- I realized that I better start dissolving and liquefy the cobwebs lurking in my mind so that I could go forth in peace and harmony.

What Help’s You to Smile and Be Happy?

For the past two weeks, I have been facing many effaceable emotions. They have been as deep, and as painful as I can ever remember. However, I kept reaching out for something that would soothe my soul. Something that was positive, something that was touchable, that could and would bring me physical warmth, and a feeling of safety, and something tangible that would help me have something to recognize, release, and also would help me recharge my battery - It had to be something calming that could make me feel better, within; something that would bring peace to my heart-

It had to be something that would make me feel better quickly! Something that would ease my pain, and something that would bring me hope to remember the good things about me, my life, and what I knew was right on! It had to be like turning on a light switch- something that would immediately help me to recognize my worth, my meaning as a human being, and all that I went through was not in vain.

You see, I was very down and depressed because my thoughts and feelings were not being considered or taken into consideration by immediate family members. And this blew me away as I think of everyone- every one!

I talked with two of my dearest and closet friends, and while it helped, it did not solve or take away all the pain I was facing.

Then a week later, about two days ago, I heard a song that my dear, mama would sing to me as a child. We would sit together as the music and lyrics played. We would weep through the whole song with the truth that these lyrics spoke.

This is just one of many of my simple ingredients that continually makes me smile and feel blessed with my life!

The song was "Smile" and it was written by Charles Chaplin Jr.. In his lyric’s he says…

"smile, through your heart is aching, smile, even though its breaking, when there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by, if you smile through your fear and sorrow, smile and maybe tomorrow, you’ll see the sun come shining through for you. Light up your face with gladness, hide every trace of sadness, although a tear may be ever so near, that’s the time you must keep on trying, smile what’s the use of crying, you’ll find that life is still worth while if you just smile…"
As I heard these words, my pain and sorrow melted. My reason, faith, and hope returned, and I was back on track being my beautiful, self once again.

Children’s Hospital

This past weekend, I went to visit my great niece in the hospital. She had a ruptured appendix, and was told to go straight to Rady’s Children’s Hospital of San Diego. So Sunday, around 11:30 in the morning, my husband and I took a two hour drive up there. The traffic was surprisingly good. We did not hit any snags in the road, or get tangled up in any bumper to bumper 15 to 30 minute traffic jams or clogged arteries.

It was the second day that I really began to walk longer distance with my sprained ankle, bare full weight on my foot, and wear tennis shoes. My tendons were stretched to the gill, but It felt good getting out of the house, giving of my own self, and, giving love to someone else who really needed the comfort and care of someone else’s concern.

It made me feel wonderful inside going out of my way! It made me also feel wonderful inside that I could give of myself so freely- And, it felt even better being able to give pure unconditional support to a loved one who’s parents could not be their on this particular day.

When I walked through the sliding glass doors, I was suddenly thrown back in time. I was in a time wrap, where I could recall specific events that took place. I was a little, 18 month old child, all over again, yet it was 2008. Being in the hospital made me feel warm and safe. It made me remember my physical therapist. It made me think of how the hospital has grown; as well as gave me glimpses of my past and things to be most grateful for.

Know matter how much I tried to stay in the present moment, when ever there were silent periods of time, I couldn’t stop recalling the time I spent in the Los Angeles Children’s hospital.

When the lights go on all over the Tees Valley

This month sees the launch of Stockton’s first ever Christmas Market Fair which promises treats and delights for all the family. The fair kicks off the five-week long Stockton Sparkles Christmas Festival celebrations which sees events being held every weekend before Christmas Eve, encouraging shoppers and visitors into the town centre. The market, which will run from November 27-30, will feature delicious food from local farmers, a Victorian themed funfair, street entertainment and a Christmas Circus. Stockton’s Parish Gardens will be filled with log cabins hosting crafts people with a variety of gifts to sell, as well as vendors selling hot food and drink, including mulled wine and German sausage.

Stockton Council is funding the festival for three years, culminating in 2010 with the 700th anniversary of the Stockton Market Charter. After 2010 it is expected the Christmas Market Fair will become a self-funding annual event. The run-up to all the Christmas festivities begins on Sunday, November 23 – the day of the Christmas light switch-on which will be performed by Emmerdale’s Charlie Hardwick, who plays Val. The four-day Christmas Market Fair begins on Thursday, November 27. Throughout these four days there will be a stage in the Green Dragon Yard for live music and performances in the Georgian Theatre. A Farmers’ Market will be running in

Wellington Square on the Thursday with a mobile kitchen where a local chef will be demonstrating how to cook some of the products on offer from the farmers. On Friday, November 28, shoppers and visitors will be treated to a variety of entertainment including the Christmas Circus, a Christmas Market and Craft Fair in the Parish Gardens and live performances including Adrian the fire eater, performing pirates, the Snowmen Family and Man in a Xmas Present. The Victorian funfair will be found during all four days of the fair at the south end of the High Street with free entertainment and rides. The free Christmas Circus, on Riverside Road, will be giving 45-minute performances throughout all four days of the Christmas Market Fair as well as holding circus skills workshops for children. On Saturday, November 29, you can see local Bollywood dance troupe Navrang Arts, the Stockton Rhythm Train, and the Kings Choir Gospel Singers. The Christmas Market Fair draws to a close on Sunday, November 30, with the World Fair as well as entertainment from the winner of Stockton Council’s Busk Idol competition, Chris Wright, belly dancers from the Tees Valley and artist John Hicks’ Icons, upside down and revolving paintings of Christmas scenes executed to music.

A fireworks finale provides the final flourish. Other Stockton Sparkles events include a reindeer parade on Sunday, December 7, and Christmas Carnival Parade on December 14. In the week before Christmas the Christmas Land Train will be taking people up and down the High Street.

TEES Valley gets into the full festive spirit with Christmas lights being switched on around the region.

MIDDLESBROUGH: Thursday, November 13, from 5.30pm

Fun starts for the Middlesbrough Christmas lights switch-on from 5.30pm with the switch flicked on this year’s dazzling display at 6pm. You’ll also be able to see Glow, where performers use programmable juggling clubs which change colour, fade or strobe in unison with music and each other.

STOCKTON: Sunday November 23

EMMERDALE’S Charlie Hardwick, who plays Val, ably assisted by Santa will switch on the lights at 4.30pm. There will be fun in town from 2.30pm.
DARLINGTON: Sunday, November 23

THE fun starts in the Market Square at 3.15pm. Ian Reddington, star of the Darlington Civic’s panto, will then turn on the lights at 4.30pm followed by fireworks.

SALTBURN: Saturday, November 29

THE Christmas tree lights switch-on takes place on Albion Terrace. Marske Band will be playing from 4.30pm with carols

02 November 2008

Scoliosis patient has ‘perfect pregnancy’ despite scoliosis correction

By Kim Nguyen, Staff Writer

Two-month-old twin boys visited Dr. Alexis Shelokov at the Baylor Scoliosis Center at the Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano.

The twins, Tristan and Coltan, were born to Tina Dooling, who was treated by Shelokov two years ago.

Dooling, a Saginaw resident, had heard of Shelokov through friends and other doctors, but was hesitant to seek his treatment because of the distance.

“I looked him up to read about his experience and decided to at least have a consultation,” Dooling said. “It wasn’t until our meeting when I decided that he was my doctor.”

In October 2006, Dooling underwent a complex, multi-house back surgery at Baylor Plano in which pins and rods were put in her back to straighten a 45 degree curvature in her spine. Dooling knew she had scoliosis for the majority of her life; she was just unsure to how severe the scoliosis was.

The Doolings wanted to start a family but Tina had been told that while pregnancy was possible, she may experience severe pain and may need to be on bed rest. At the end of August, she proved everyone wrong when she gave birth to Tristan and Coltan in what she called the “perfect pregnancy.”

“When we found out that I was pregnant, I immediately became concerned about back pain,” Dooling said. “Imagine how shocked I was when the OB/GYN told me that I was carrying twins!”

Dooling said she was in constant communiqué with Dr. Shelokov and his office throughout the pregnancy. She was concerned about strain put upon her back by the pregnancy, but the office staff were supportive and certain her back would OK.

“Women who have undergone surgery to correct scoliosis are often wary when it comes to pregnancy and delivery,” Shelokov said. “But fortunately, the operation that had is designed to facilitate pregnancy and an active adulthood and a good quality of life.”

Shelokov said it is mainly in the mindset of the patient that will determine the length of the post-operative recovery and rehabilitation.

“Tina was the perfect patient,” Shelokov said. “She brought to the table a lot of positivity.”

Dooling’s back curvature has been recently measured at 10 degrees.

Dr. Alexis P. Shelokov, M.D., is the Medical Director of the Baylor Scoliosis center and president of Consulting Orthopedics. He is an orthopedic spine surgeon who treats pediatric and adult scoliosis and kyphosis. In practice for more than 18 years, he has performed more than 6,000 spinal operations. Shelokov is one of only a few dozen surgeons in the United States who regularly perform scoliosis revision surgery on children and adults who have had unsuccessful treatment in the past. Shelokov is board certified by both the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American Board of Spine Surgeons. He is also a member of the Scoliosis Research Society, the North American Spine Society, the Texas Spine Society, the American College of Physician Executives, the American Medical Association and the Dallas Medical Society.

The Baylor Scoliosis Center is the first in the Dallas/Fort Worth area devoted to the treatment, surgery and care of advanced spine curvature in adults. It is a nationally recognized center of excellence in scoliosis diagnosis, research and treatment and is involved in an international outreach effort with physicians around the world. The Baylor Scoliosis Center has treated patients with severe deformities from nations throughout the world, including Korea, Russia and Latin America.

The Baylor Scoliosis Center at the Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano is located on the eighth floor of Medical Office Pavilion 1, 4708 Alliance Blvd. in Plano.

More information on the Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano can be found online at www.baylorhealth.com. More information on the Baylor Scoliosis Center can be found online at www.thebaylorscoliosiscenter.com.

Elders enjoy Nintendo Wii

"The original purpose was for an activity to give (residents) something to do and then once we had it, we realized the potential to use it for therapy as part of the rehabilitation program here," said Korey Flick, activities director.

Nintendo Wii is an interactive video game system, allowing players to "experience" golf, tennis and bowling, among other games.

"It was a good way for the staff to interact with the residents in a social and nonmedical way, which was good for everyone," Flick said. "We've tried golf and we've tried tennis. Bowling's the one that everyone's the most successful with. Generally on a Thursday we set it up for the day and the residents and the staff rotate."

Local nursing homes and health facilities throughout Schuylkill County are jumping on board the technology trend that they say helps residents with cognitive abilities and motor skills.

Nintendo Wii systems were also donated by Family Home Medical Support System of Mount Carmel, 121 E. Fifth St., to the Shamokin-Coal Township, Mount Carmel and Kulpmont senior action centers.

The Schuylkill Regional Resource Center, 138 W. Centre Street, Mahanoy City, hosts a "Wii Wednesday!" each week from 1 to 3 p.m.

Physical therapists at Genesis HealthCare Orwigsburg Center and Schuylkill Center, long- and short-term skilled nursing centers and rehabilitation facilities in Orwigsburg and Pottsville, are using Nintendo's Wii video game technology to help patients after an illness or injury.

"It's good cognitive activity to keep the mind active," said Amanda Schwalm, a speech language pathologist at Tremont Health and Rehabilitation Center "In that respect, it's working on your deductive reasoning skills, and that's a big part of what I do for short term to home (care.)"

When the Tremont Health and Rehabilitation Center -- a 180-bed skilled nursing facility for short-term and long-term care -- first got the system in August, the staff and residents split into teams, challenging each other and bringing a social layer to the work environment.

Kristy Deeter, an occupational therapist, said all residents have access to the system, adding that bowling is the game of choice for many.

"What it helps for people in therapy is, number one, they're getting some arm movements -- full range of motion," she said. "That movement's a natural movement for the arm, so I think that's why we've been more successful with that one."

"It builds up the muscles and it makes the brain think," resident Dave Wolfe said. "It's a lot cheaper than going to a bowling alley."

Wolfe shows up to the activities room each week to play. Facility administrator Dan Daub counts Wolfe among the "rowdy bunch," of cheering and excitable players.

"I used to do regular bowling, but this is a lot different," Wolfe said Tuesday, gearing up for his turn against resident Nancy Gibble. "Today I can't get a strike to save my soul."

But Wolfe spoke too soon, tossing a strike in his next shot.

Gibble bowled 130, saying she doesn't really care who wins, she just tries to do the best she can.

Is competition a factor in the virtual sport?

"There is to an extent, but it's mostly all in fun and trying to beat your score from the week before," Gibble said.

"It's kind of a growing trend and a unique way to get therapy done, so we're glad we could latch on to that," Daub said.

Physical therapy: It’s all about movement

By Erik Nieuwenhuis
October is National Physical Therapy Month, and this year’s theme is “It’s All About Movement!”Physical therapists are the movement experts. We help people move forward. e help people who have had a stroke or an amputation regain their independence. We help millions of Americans manage or eliminate their neck or back pain. We educate and lead workers and companies to work smart and improve the ergonomics in their workplace and homes. We help children with cerebral palsy improve their overall function and participation in life.Movement is essential to our everyday lives at work, home and play. Movement is an essential ingredient in your daily health and quality of life! Having the ability to move safely and effectively is crucial in our lives and the lives of the people physical therapists treat. The physical therapy profession empowers people to move forward and take control of the movement that is essential in everyone’s life.

What is a physical therapist?Physical therapists are good people to know. They’’re educated in understanding the interaction of all your body parts. Their hands-on approach begins with examination, diagnosis, and then treatment of the immediate problem. Then they teach you how to take care of yourself by showing you how to do exercises and how to use and move your body properly to gain strength and mobility while preventing injury and wear and tear to your body. You’ll find them advising on proper work smart posture and body mechanics in the workplace, treating injuries, consulting on fitness/wellness and self care of the working, aging body. You’ll also find them treating patients in the hospital, clinic or home settings. Today physical therapists provide help for every part of the body and to everyone from infants to the elderly, serving more than one million people each day.Where do physical therapists practice?- Outpatient clinics or private practice n 41.5 percent- Outpatient hospitals n14.5 percent- Acute hospitals n 13.1 percent- Patient’s home (home health) n 7.9 percent- Skilled nursing, extended care, or sub-acute facilities n 5.6 percent- Academic institutions n 4.8 percent- Schools (Pre-School, Primary and Secondary) n 4.1 percent- Inpatient rehab facilities n 3.5 percent- Hospices- Industrial, workplace or occupational environments- Fitness centers, health clubs, sports training facilities- ResearchAPTA website June 2007 http://www.apta.org/Educational requirementsCurrently, nearly 200 colleges and universities nationwide offer professional physical therapy education programs.Des Moines University, the University of Iowa, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of South Dakota offer physical therapy programs close to the tri-state area. Western Iowa Tech Community College also offers a physical therapy assistant program. Most physical therapy programs require a student graduate from an accredited four year college and take prerequisite classes for the physical therapy school the student is applying to.Employment outlookThe demand for physical therapists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2014. The demand for physical therapists should continue to grow as the number of individuals with disabilities or limited function increases. Job opportunities are expected to be particularly good in acute hospital, rehabilitation, and orthopedic settings because the elderly receive the most treatment in these settings. Plus, widespread interest in health promotion should increase demand for physical therapy services at the worksite and health clubs. A growing number of employers are using physical therapy services to evaluate worksites, develop exercise programs and teach WorkSmart and safety habits to employees to reduce injuries, claims and costs.Daily job tasksWe treat patients to: improve mobility, relieve pain, increase strength and balance, improve coordination and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease.Physical therapists restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health.Our patients include accident victims from motor vehicle accidents and slip, trip and fall injuries, individuals with disabling conditions such as lower back pain, arthritis, heart disease and stroke, diabetes or those with amputations, fractures or total knee and hip replacements among others.Physical therapists determine the patient’s ability to be independent and reintegrate into the community or workplace after an injury or illness with the goal of improving how an individual functions at work, play and home.Therapists also teach patients how to use assistive and adaptive devices to improve their safety and independence.Sources:1. American Physical Therapy Association Website at http://www.apta.org/2. US News and World Report 20063. Erik Nieuwenhuis MS, PT My Life and Career as a Physical TherapistContact Erik Nieuwenhuis at St Luke’s IMPACC WorkSmart and WELLness Services at 712-279-1842 or Nieuween@stlukes.org

Chair Yoga May Help Those Who Stay Seated

As movement becomes more difficult, due to age or other issues, stretching becomes important just to maintain abilities. It may be difficult to imagine practicing yoga if you can't move particularly easily. But the peaceful, gentle stretching may actually be a good choice for people with disabilities.
The American Pain Foundation's Web site, www.painfoundation.org, has a six-week course called "Chair Yoga for Good Living" that helps those who must remain seated. While a yoga instructor is probably preferable, the course can be led by therapeutic recreation staff or nurses, peer advocates or volunteers. The course is described as a relaxation and breathing class, appropriate for those coping with chronic pain, stress, illness or disability. The six weekly themes are Being Positive, Being Mindful, Being in Community, Being Love, Being Compassion and Just Being Plain. Each hourlong class has 12 components, including sounds, hand gestures, breathing movement, relaxation and mediation.
Another resource is www.getfitwhereyousit.com, which offers a chair yoga fitness and exercise DVD for sale. The exercises are led by Lakshmi Voelker-Binder, a member of the Yoga Alliance and the International Association of Yoga Therapists.
In addition to those with conditions typically labeled as disabilities, Voelker-Binder recommends chair yoga for those coping with weight issues, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain, breathing problems, multiple sclerosis and scoliosis.
Chair yoga is good for anyone who sits at a desk all day. Once a few particular movements are learned, including the lower back circle, facial and eye movements, wrist and ankle rotations and some deep-breathing methods, they can be done at the desk throughout the day and co-workers will be blissfully ignorant. Voelker-Binder suggests a yoga break might replace the more traditional coffee break and improve production as well as the office atmosphere.
That might be a little too hopeful for me, but even the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability in Chicago ( www.ncpad.org) agrees the postures, which they say can all be modified or adapted to a seated position and the breathing exercises, can be beneficial to people with disabilities. In addition to basic stretching, some of the movements can help stimulate internal organs and increase blood flow and circulation.
Some studies also indicate the breathing techniques alone can ease anxiety, several forms of stress and possibly depression.
That might be enough reason to give yoga a try. There are plenty of yoga studios in the area; why not give the nearest one a call and see if they have a chair yoga class? If they don't, why not suggest they start one? There certainly ought to be enough people who could benefit.

Find this article at: http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/nov/01/chair-yoga-may-help-those-who-stay-seated