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Therapies improve patients’ quality of life

Staff writer

In 1995, Myrtle Geisbrecht of Hillsboro suffered a stroke that left the right side of her body completely paralyzed. However, with intensive physical therapy, she regained her ability to walk with a brace.

“My arm I can’t really use, but at least I can walk,” Geisbrecht said. “To me, it’s very important.”

Crafts were another concern she had after her stroke.

“I used to do quite a bit of crocheting,” she said. “Because it’s my right hand, I had to learn to crochet backwards.”

Occupational therapist DeVona Roble of Hillsboro Community Hospital fashioned a brace for her right hand that simplified the switch to left-handed crocheting, Geisbrecht said.

More recently, Geisbrecht underwent physical therapy after knee surgery in January. Geisbrecht still occasionally seeks physical and occupational therapy, whenever her doctor tells her she is due for a “tune up.”

Delores Warnica of Marion had surgeries in January and November 2010 to remove cancer in her mouth. In one of the surgeries, doctors removed nearly half of one side of her tongue.

“It doesn’t hurt anymore,” Warnica said. “It’s all healed.”

After the surgeries, she underwent physical and speech therapies, all with the aim to make communicating easier. Warnica said she had to repeat herself a lot after surgeries. It is much better now, but there was a time she didn’t know if she would ever be able to speak normally again.

“It felt very depressing,” Warnica said. “Anytime that you can’t do what you used to do, it’s very upsetting.”

Physical therapy included heat treatments and massages on her neck and jaw. Speech therapy included mouth and face exercises that helped her strengthen the tongue and mouth muscles necessary for speech.

To aid in her mouth exercises, she received a chart showing all of the exercises, which had a small mirror in the center so she could be certain she was doing them correctly. She said she was satisfied with her progress in making herself understood.

“It’s been very helpful,” Warnica said. “I’m well pleased.”

Geisbrecht and Warnica are two of the success stories for physical, occupational, and speech therapy at Hillsboro Community Hospital. The hospital contracts with Aegis Therapies for occupational and speech therapy.

Although there are differences among the three fields, all are intended to help patients regain their previous quality of life, Hillsboro Community Hospital Administrator Michael Ryan said.

The terms occupational therapy and speech therapy are misleading. While occupational therapy can make it possible for a patient to return to work, its purpose is to restore skills that are important to a patient’s life and finding strategies to cope with the loss of skills that can’t be restored.

Speech therapy can involve helping someone speak, as in Warnica’s case, but it also includes improving a patient’s swallowing ability. Swallowing is often a problem for stroke patients.

Ryan said the physical, occupational, and speech therapy teams do a good job working together to help their patients.

“If someone is in the nursing home or the hospital, our goal is to get them home again,” physical therapist Don Bookless said.

Last modified April 14, 2011

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