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Walking without weight: Saints Gala supports new stroke rehab equipment

When Beth Wiese, a registered nurse and stroke coordinator at St. Charles Bend, learned that the stroke program had been selected as the beneficiary of funds from the annual St. Charles Foundation Saints Gala, she started making her wish list.

“We had an opportunity to enhance an already incredible program,” she said. “We were blessed beyond belief.”

Last fall’s Saints Gala netted more than $200,000 with $90,000 of the proceeds designated to support the stroke program. Wiese worked with the Rehabilitation team to identify new equipment that could revolutionize stroke recovery. The team decided to purchase an anti-gravity treadmill and multiple hand and arm therapy tools.

“There is a lot of research about body-weight supported treadmill training,” said Dave Blauwkamp, a physical therapist at St. Charles Bend. “A lot of people really like using it, although they are nervous at first.”

Stroke patients often have a hard time getting their brain to send the correct signal to their legs when they want to walk, sit or stand. The anti-gravity treadmill is a way to reduce the weight patients feel so they can concentrate on the mechanics of walking without the stress of supporting themselves.

Patients put on a pair of shorts with a zipper around the top that connects to a bag surrounding the treadmill. Once zipped in, the therapist sets up the treadmill to inflate the bag and reduce the weight the patient feels by a certain percentage.

For Asa Pollard, who suffered a stroke at the age of 39 earlier this year, the treadmill helped early on in his recovery.

“When you want to move quicker, it’s nice,” Pollard said. “It’s great because it takes as much weight as needed off.”

When he’s ready, Pollard and his therapist may also use the treadmill to help him reach one of his milestones – being able to jog again.

“His mom called me and said that I am an angel for getting this equipment,” Wiese said of Pollard. “It has made the biggest difference in his recovery.”

In addition to stroke patients, the equipment can be used to help those recovering from cardiac events, patients preparing for bariatric surgery and others rebounding from neurologic injuries.

“As a non-profit organization, St. Charles depends on the community for ongoing support of our facilities, equipment and education for our caregivers,” said Lisa Dobey, executive director of St. Charles Foundation. “Seeing the direct impact our generous donors have on the recovery of our patients through the purchase of new technology is so inspiring.”

Save the date for the annual Saints Gala being held on Friday, Nov. 4. Register online