Diane

Diane
Diane

Healthcare Professional

I am an occupational therapist and one of my stroke patients who had right hemiplegia asked me to design a device that would enable him to independently donn his ankle foot orthosis (AFO) using only one hand.

I have practiced in the rehabilitation profession for close to 20 years: 18 years as a physical therapist assistant, and most recently as an occupational therapist. During my career, I have worked with stroke survivors, young and old, in a variety of settings. Without a doubt, these clients face many challenges.

In the occupational performance area of activities of daily living, a dressing skill that I have found to be quite problematic for a stroke survivor is their ability to independently donn an ankle foot orthosis (AFO) especially if the strength in one side of their body is weak or non-existent.

One of my patients (I'll call him Joe [not his real name]) was a 35-year-old male who had a stroke that resulted in right hemiplegia. He lived alone and was determined to be totally independent with his dressing skills. He was making marvelous progress with his upper body dressing, but he had extreme difficulty when trying to donn his AFO. He asked if I could try to make him a device that would help him achieve this dressing task. With Joe's goals in mind, I began an exhaustive search on the internet to find a device that would assist a patient with this donning task. Unfortunately, I found nothing. Since Joe was so determined to succeed with this task, I felt I couldn't let him down, so I set out to design a device that would help him achieve his goal.
I searched for items in my garage that I could "re-purpose" for this task, and with the assistance of my engineer-husband... voile... we fabricated just what I envisioned would do the trick.

Joe arrived in the gym the following day and I couldn't wait to show him my design. While he sat in his wheelchair, I "unveiled" the device, and said, "Ask and you shall receive!" A smile slowly crept onto Joe's face and it lit up the room. I told him I would first give him a visual demonstration of the dressing task we were about to undertake. During the demonstration, I only used one hand for positioning all the necessary items since he too, was only able to use one hand. I used a leg lifter to lift "my affected leg" up and easily placed it into the AFO which was held in place with my new device. The smile on Joe's face widened as he quickly got into position so he could try it for himself. The task came quite naturally to him and he handled it like a pro. He was successful on his first attempt and his smile said it all.

After several weeks of redesigning the product, I finalized a design that allows the patient to donn the AFO while seated either in a long sitting or short sitting position. Additionally, the device includes an accessory that allows the patient to easily donn a shoe while wearing the AFO.

This device is now under development with a plastics manufacturing company and will soon be beta-tested in stroke rehabilitation facilities within my community. There are no words to describe how I feel when just one stroke patient says, "Thanks for going that extra mile for me!"

 

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