Article via The Waterloo Chronicle – Juli Radersma wasn’t going to let a stroke suffered on the operating table stop her from regaining the use of her right arm, even if she had to fly across the country for a cutting-edge new treatment that would help in her recovery.
So when her sister Janice Grantham heard about a new treatment called MyndMove that helps rebuild the neural pathways for people suffering from paralysis, she hoped on a plane from B.C. and returned to her home town of Brantford to be closer to the therapy.
She found it at Pathways Therapy in Waterloo, at 745 Bridge St. W., one of only 19 sites across Canada that provides the procedure using functional electrical stimulation to re-engage the brain in movements it once did without thinking.
Radersma, who was always known for taking care of others, now has a group of 20 family and friends who drive her the hour each way it takes to get to and from the treatment. She is up to her 20th session, and has seen some steady progress in regaining some of her movement.
Things like lifting and reaching her arm are a little farther along in the process, but she is also working on grasping and picking up objects as simple as a glass.
She said you take for granted what you can do with both hands when your able — simple things like zipping up your coat.
“I’m trying to work as fast as I can to get better,” said Radersma.
Helping her through the process is Tania Campbell, director of physiotherapy at Pathways Therapy, now in its 20th years of treating people. She attached the electric feeds to eight different muscle groups in Radersma’s arm and applies an electrical current until it stimulates a reaction.
Then they work together to try to jog the brain about that movement and hopefully restore it in Radersma’s muscle memory.
“Her arm was quite limited in motion, so when we first started she had some movement in the elbow but she couldn’t open her fingers and her shoulder was dropped down,” said Campbell. “She couldn’t reach forward or move her arm before she started this. She’s able to move her arm forward now with the treatment, and is gaining some of her movement back.
“She’s got a ways to go but she’s gained a lot of strength and movement in the shoulder.”
The process came out of research done by Dr. Milos Popovic, Rehab Chair in Spinal Cord Injury Research at the Toronto Rehab Institute at the University Health Network, who had demonstrated some promising results in clinical studies.
These studies found that patients who underwent intensive weekly sessions over a two to three month period had lasting recovery of voluntary arm and hand movements even though they suffered the same paralysis as Radersma.
The idea turned into a company called MyndTech Inc. looking for backing for the idea in 2012, and received its first round of funding in August of that year. It has since gone on to get funding from groups like Golden Triangle Angel Network and support from Communitech to help commercialize the therapy.
“He said we really need to get this science out to the public,” said Diana Plihura, CEO of MyndTech. “This is a product that there is a need for because there currently is no treatment for paralysis.”
Plihura partnered with Popovic to get Health Canada approvals and take the product to the market. She was also quite complimentary about the support she received from the local tech ecosystem to get this biotechnology out to clinics that could use it to help people.
“We built a startup company that is now commercial,” said Plihura. “We also engaged a lot of therapists early on with how they would like to use this from the features they would like to see to the size of the device and how the user interface would work, and they gave us a lot of feedback.
“The end result was that actually really liked the ease of use and the user interface. We’ve got a lot of positive feedback and I think we did that part right.”
Campbell and the physiotherapists she works with at Pathways Therapy got their training on the device last June, and she has since treated four people with the new technology, including Radersma.
“There have been other units in use for a long time, but they are much less sophisticated than this and you could only hook up one or two muscles at a time,” said Campbell. “We can hook up a lot of different muscles with this device and it is all set for different functional movement patterns.”
Radersma said she can feel the difference. “My muscles really start to work,” she said. “It feels like it vibrates a little bit.”
Campbell said it helps to have motivated patients like Radersma, who work so hard in their recovery. “I have to tell her to take a break and do something fun sometimes too,” said Campbell.
For more about MyndMove visit www.myndtec.com or call Pathways Therapy at 519-885-4211.