February 1, 2012
Technology lends a helping hand in Yazoo City resident's stroke recovery
By Carey Miller
Health and Research News Service
The medical device used to help 57-year-old Annie Johnson recover from a debilitating stroke blurs the lines between science and science fiction.
“When they were telling me about the Bioness, I said, ‘Oh, I’m going to be bionic,’” she said. “I thought it was space-age stuff.”
That’s the Bioness H200 Hand Rehabilitation System—a breakthrough medical device that has helped many patients just like her regain their independence.
It’s just one of the cutting-edge rehab technologies that was available to her during her stay at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson.
The device, which resembles an arm brace, contains electrodes on the top and bottom that stimulate the muscles in the forearm and hand.
“It helps to re-train the brain what it feels like for a muscle to contract so it can ultimately do it on its own,” explained Laura Ashley, an occupational therapist at Methodist Rehab.
Johnson, a Yazoo City resident, has suffered a number of strokes. The most recent impaired the left side of her body, and limited use of her hand.
While the H200 hasn’t given Johnson super powers like Jaime Sommers of the 1970s science fiction TV series The Bionic Woman, it has made her feel quite super.
“The first time I put it on, I was able to open and close my hand,” she said. “Whereas before, I could just make a little fist.”
Johnson also rehabbed with the Armeo®Spring therapy system, a robotic exoskeleton which aids in restoring movement to the upper arm and shoulder. Methodist Rehab is the only center in Mississippi and only one of six in the Southeast that offers the therapy.
Aided by other more traditional rehab techniques, she has recovered quite well.
“I dress myself, I brush my own teeth,” Johnson said. “It’s helped me a lot.”
Methodist Rehab also outfits patients with other Bioness products, like the L300 Foot Drop System that former patient Don Lofton wears.
“I don’t leave home without it,” Lofton, an Air Force veteran who lives in Flowood, said. “It does wonders.”
Following a 2007 stroke Lofton was outfitted with the device through Quest, Methodist Rehab’s outpatient program that helps people with brain injuries return to work, school or community life.
Lofton now volunteers in admissions at the center. “I love this place,” he said.
Johnson shares Lofton’s affinity for Methodist Rehab. She has been no stranger to hospitals, both at home in Yazoo City and in Jackson. But she sensed there was something different about Methodist Rehab, even before she was wowed by the technology of the Bioness.
“Usually when you come into a hospital you see a lot of sad people,” she said. “But even the other patients I saw, they looked as happy as could be.”
Johnson said she was immediately taken with the cheerful and friendly atmosphere, the center’s attentive and caring staff and the state-of-the-art facilities.
“I didn’t even think a place like this existed, I kept referring to it as Club Med,” she said, laughing.
Johnson has a supportive family, including two daughters in the medical field—one a dialysis tech and the other in medical school.
With their medical background, the doting daughters were selective of the care their mother received, and Methodist Rehab impressed them as well.
“My daughter said, ‘When I finish school, I want to work there,’” Johnson said.
Above all, though—bionic, space-age gadgets or no—it was the feeling that she was in good hands that Johnson valued most about Methodist Rehab.
“I told my family members they didn’t have to stay with me, and that was really unusual for me,” she said. “This place was so comfortable and easygoing, it was just a wonderful thing.”