Sunday, August 5, 2018

Aquatherapy and Visualization


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There are many sports professionals who do visualization. If you've ever watched the down hill skiers during the winter Olympics you'll know what I mean. You'll see them standing at the gate with their eyes closed and their head moving back and forth as they visualize every flag and turn on the hill. Here's an article I took from the StrokeNet Newsletter  written by a stroke survivor who has applied that to his stroke recovery.  
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Dancing with Stroke
By Jim Sinclair

Aquatherapy and Visualization

By coincidence, my return from Arizona to my primary residence in Winnipeg just happened to coincide with one of my favorite weekends of the year. As a bit of a golf fanatic, much of that weekend was consumed watching the Masters Golf Tournament. During the third round of the Masters, the performance of Bubba Watson reminded me of the importance of visualization in my journey of recovery following stroke.

I believe that in addition to their physical prowess; what separates great professional golfers from those of us who are mediocre amateurs is their ability to clearly visualize the shot they are about to attempt and then physically execute that shot. During my three month hospital stay following my strokes I had a large number of excellent therapists from various disciplines assist me in my journey of recovery. My primary focus throughout the three months was trying to learn to use a walker rather than a wheelchair.

With a burning desire to be able to walk independently so as to continue to golf, I was most eager to cooperate and enthusiastically undertake each and every activity recommended by my therapists except for one situation. During my last two weeks in the HSC Rehabilitation hospital a recreation therapist by the name of Clayton recommended that I participate in Aquatherapy in the hospital’s pool. For the first time in this journey I felt frightened. For most of my life I had a fear of water and a fear of drowning.

When Clayton first recommended the Aquatherapy I protested quite vehemently because I could not understand how I could be expected to do this when I was still not capable of getting out of my wheelchair nor stand independently. With a great deal of trepidation and a couple of sleepless nights I finally agreed to give it a try. On the appointed day Clayton transported me from my hospital room to the pool’s dressing room where he assisted me in putting on my swim suit.

When Clayton wheeled me out to the pool area my near panic subsided somewhat as we were joined by the two final year physiotherapy students whose practicum entailed working with me, as they clarified that they were there should Clayton need their assistance. I felt a moment of enlightenment when clayton slipped a harness under my torso so that a lift could raise me out of my chair to transfer me gently into the pool right next to one of the sides of the pool.

Clayton instructed me to grab the side of the pool and hang on. I grasped the side first with my good right hand and then added my feeble stroke affected left hand. The rest of that session entailed my hanging on to the side of the pool and moving around just a little, within a few minutes I experienced the joy of realizing that I was standing erect in the pool using the buoyancy of the water and just touching the side for balance.

A few days later when I was taken to the pool area I was cautiously optimistic as I was aware of what to expect and felt safe. The second session was a repeat of the first except Clayton had me work my way along the side to the deep end. To my amazement Clayton pointed out that there were parallel bars in the deep end and asked me to stretch out and reach for the closest bar, assuring me that the water would keep me buoyed up when I let go of the side and reached for the bar.

I reached out in confidence knowing that earlier that day my two physiotherapy practicum students had advanced me to setting aside my walker to use a cane for the first time. The next day I was excited, eager and looking forward to attend my third Aquatherapysession... I had been told tha the following day my occupational therapist would be going to my home to do an assessment to determine if it was safe for me to return home and determine what work would need to be done to our house so that I could function safely at home with a wheelchair and a walker.

My third Aquatherapy session began with my working my way directly to the parallel bars in the deep end. With reaffirming encouragement from Clayton I maneuvered myself in between the parallel bars where Clayton had me take a few steps back and forth holding on to the parallel bars. After a few minutes of that I mustered the courage to let go of the bars and to my amazement I was walking independently using only the water bouncy to keep me up.

That night was my best night in hospital in that I went to sleep holding the thought of my walk in the water and envisioning that I could walk independently. I knew that if I could do it in the water I could do it out of the water. The next morning I awoke full of positive excitement. I could still envision myself walking independently, I was aware that if my occupational therapist was doing a home assessment, I might soon return home.

My day began with my physiotherapy session which my youngest son was attending to see my progress. My regular physiotherapist Becky asked me to demonstrate how I had used the cane the day before with the two students.. Becky handed me the cane. I mentioned that the physiotherapy students had me use the cane in my left hand as they were concerned about the issues presented by my right hip that had been preplaced. I told Becky that since my left hand was my stroke affected side I would rather try using the cane in my right hand.

She placed the cane n my right hand and punted to the doorway telling me to see how many steps I could take towards the door with the cane. All that was in my mind was the same vision of walking independently that I had experienced earlier that morning. After about ten steps Becky barked “Stop. Do you realize the cane is not touching the floor? You are carrying it. Put the cane down and keep going you are finished for today” So I kept walking to the elevator, went back to my room. I credit my ability to walk for the past ten years to the Aquatherapy sessions which resulted in the ability to envision myself walking independently.
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