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News > Innovative stroke rehab centre harnesses technology to aid recovery

Innovative stroke rehab centre harnesses technology to aid recovery

A woman walks on a treadmill in a harness while another woman watches in the background.

A pioneering rehabilitation centre is giving new hope to those recovering from stroke, and Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland is at the centre of it.

Academics at the University of Strathclyde are harnessing existing and developing technology to develop new techniques and systems to aid stroke survivors in their rehabilitation.

The university’s Biomedical Rehabilitation Engineering Research Group set up the Sir Jules Thorn Centre for Co-creation of Rehabilitation Technology with a £449,000 grant from the Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust.

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland has pledged to raise a further £160,000 that will allow our service users to access the tailored eight-week course to take place in the specialist facility, the first of its kind in Scotland.

Dr Andy Kerr is a senior lecturer in biomedical engineering at the university. A trained physiotherapist, he has founded the rehab centre with his colleague, Professor Philip Rowe, a professor of rehabilitation science.

Dr Kerr said: “We want to encourage and support people in their own rehabilitation. We are taking existing technology, some of which is used for the likes of gaming and adapting it.

“So, for example, we have a treadmill with a harness that supports someone with balance or mobility issues. A camera tracks their movement, so not only do they feel supported, they can also see where they are weak and work on it.

We want to encourage and support people in their own rehabilitation.

“We use games with adapted controllers that help the user recover dexterity. Most of this can be very easily adapted, so the long-term aim would be to see community rehab facilities in places like gyms and leisure centres.”

There are more than 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK. It’s estimated that two-thirds of those who suffer a stroke will leave hospital with a disability, costing health services and social care an estimated £26 billion a year.

Better rehabilitation can aid recovery, improving patient lives and reducing the burden on the state. Your donations to Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland can help more stroke survivors on their recovery journey.

Getting the balance right

Left with mobility issues on her left-hand side after a stroke, Linda Hanlin has always been keen to try anything that might improve her movement.

The 62-year-old, who lives in Kilmarnock, went through a lot of physiotherapy after the stroke in January 2014. But she still has trouble gripping with her left hand and walks with a stick.

Linda was quick to sign up as one of the first to try out the pioneering stroke rehabilitation unit at the University of Strathclyde.

Linda has found the exercises very helpful and hopes that eventually more centres like this can be opened across Scotland.

A Kindness Volunteer with Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland and a member of the peer support group, Kilmarnock
Young Stroke Group, the retired mum of two grown-up children was put through her paces in a series of technological tests and exercises designed to retrain her limbs.

She says: “My arm and leg had improved a lot after initial rehab. But in December 2020, I fell and broke my left ankle. Now I have a pin in it, and while I was recovering, I was totally immobile.

“I felt all the good work I’d done on my left side had been lost. So going to the rehab unit was a good opportunity to build that muscle up again. The first exercise they gave me I didn’t find beneficial, so I tried something else. That’s the beauty of this. It’s about finding what works for each person.

“My balance isn’t great, and I walk with a stick. I used the treadmill with a harness that shows you how you are working and encourages you to use your feet more evenly.”

Linda says the two-hour sessions flew by, and she’d love to have more of them.

She laughs: “I didn’t feel in control of my walking when I first went on the treadmill, and I couldn’t walk on it. Then I thought, no, big girl’s pants on, just do it!

“I think the long-term plan is that this unit will act like a drop-in gym for those who need it, which would be fantastic. And if something like this could be available across the country, it would be even better. It would be a shame for people to miss out because of their postcode.”

Aisle do this without my crutch

MP Amy Callaghan saw a news item about the rehab centre at Strathclyde University and knew she had to get in there.

The 29-year-old suffered a brain haemorrhage that required emergency surgery in June 2020, followed by four months in the rehabilitation unit in Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

Now, having finally returned to work in the House of Commons in February, Amy has another goal in mind: she wants to walk down the aisle next year without her crutch.

Amy is the SNP MP for East Dunbartonshire. The brain haemorrhage – caused by arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) in her brain, which disrupt normal blood flow – has left her with problems with her balance.

She says: “I do physio twice a week, but I felt as though my recovery had plateaued. Then I saw the story about the University rehab centre on the news and I knew I needed to get involved in that as quickly as possible.

“My balance is still off, and my walking is not as good as it could be. Because of that, I’m still working on my confidence to get out and about. The technology at the rehab centre is really helping with all of that.

“I get married next year and I want to walk down the aisle without my crutch. I feel I’m on my way to achieving that goal.”

You can help us change to future of stroke care. To help us reach our funding goal of £160,000 to support more people like Linda and Amy through the centre, please donate what you can now:

People are leaving hospital feeling scared and alone. You can change that.

Your donation can help people do more than just survive – you can help them really live.


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