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Toronto Private Hospital launches intensive upper limb clinic

A FORMER piano teacher who suffered a stroke is fast relearning how to use her left hand on the keyboard thanks to an intensive outpatient program at Toronto Private Hospital.

“It’s going very well,” Janice McCarty told the Lakes Mail as she took a break from playing her favourite show tunes.

“I couldn’t use this hand two weeks ago,” she said, indicating her affected left hand. Ms McCarty is a participant in what the hospital is calling its intensive upper limb clinic.

Allied health manager, Lisa Innes, said the goal was to optimise the quality of life for patients who had suffered stroke, traumatic brain injury, and some specific hand injuries. It’s an intensive two-week program, and it’s a first for the Hunter.

“Many people who experience a stroke or traumatic brain injury experience upper limb deficits, but are unaware that there are steps they can take to enhance functional use of the weaker limb to minimise the impact the event has on their life,” Ms Innes said.

People can get involved by asking their general practitioner (GP) for a referral to the program.

In addition to a pre- and post-program assessment, patients typically attend five sessions per week over the two weeks. Patients complete specific, high-intensity exercises to elicit positive changes. Their efforts are overseen by physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other multidisciplinary team members.

Occupational therapist Melanie Glapa said patients are assigned exercises which often tap in to their interests or hobbies.

“Patients do a series of timed tasks in activities they find meaningful, to try to get use back in that hand,” Ms Glapa said.

For Ms McCarty, that means exercises at the keyboard.

“We’ve been using the piano a fair bit in Janice’s therapy, to try to get coordination back in her hand.”

Ms Glapa said the progress Ms McMcarty had made in the two weeks of therapy had been exciting.

Ms Innes said Ms McCarty’s progress was not unusual. “Patients have been really surprised and impressed by the results they’ve achieved,” Ms Innes said.

Patients are also encouraged to continue the exercises at home after the clinic. Ms Innes said the program was based on the latest evidence in treating people who have suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury. “Through education and exercise, the program assists people to improve their quality of life, to reduce the risk of future injury and to maintain an independent lifestyle,” she said.

“The program also provides a great social outlet with a group of like minded, motivated individuals.”