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Jessica H.

Healthcare Professionals

Stroke Recovery and Exercise

We are the Exercise Physiologists of the Maryland Exercise and Robotics Center of Excellence (MERCE) within the University of Maryland Medical Center and the Baltimore VA Medical Center. The MERCE Center has been doing research related to stroke and exercise for over 10 years. Between the 9 of us, we have been with the MERCE Center from one to six years. The research we do involves stroke and various types of exercise programs, including treadmill training, resistance or weight training, and group exercise classes. The collective goal of these programs is to determine the benefits of various types of exercise on stroke survivors' fitness, functional mobility, quality of life, and community ambulation. Our participants range in age, disability, and time between their stroke and their participation in our programs. Based on testing and evaluations we do with our participants we are able to obtain a pretty good picture of their overall fitness, co-morbidities, and strength. Using questionnaires, we are able to evaluate the stroke survivors' outlook on their stroke recovery and quality of life. We repeat both the functional and questionnaire tests at various time points throughout their participation in our programs to assess if, when, and where improvements occur. Based upon the results of our exercise training programs, papers are written and published announcing the findings and trends that are discovered.

As Physiologists, we also gain insight into our stroke survivors as individuals. Our exercise programs range in duration from three months to two years, and participants come to exercise with us three days a week. These exercise sessions and testing appointments allow us to spend quality time with our participants and allow us to talk to them about things that are important to them; family, friends, hobbies, vacations, and the like. We get to hear their stories about their stroke, meet their spouses and family members, and share in their excitement during various life events, such as the birth of a grandchild. As physiologists we get to see and celebrate in these milestones that are so important to our stroke survivors as individuals, which allow us to get to know them on a personal level that extends beyond the collection of data points that can be published. Everyone has different individual exercise and recovery goals, and we feel privileged to witness firsthand when these goals are met and exceeded, but we are also there to offer support and console them during times when they may fall short of their goals.

Every stroke is different. Every stroke survivor is different. Therefore, recovery is different for everyone. It is uplifting and inspiring to see progress related to fitness, but for us, it is so much more special to get to know our participants on a personal level and feel as though we are a part of their lives and their stroke recovery. We learn so much from our interactions and relationships we build with each of our participants. We are often commended on our positivity, demeanor, and work ethic when working with our participants, but that energy and positivity comes largely from the stroke survivors we work with and our drive to help improve their lives following their stroke. Regardless of the stage of their recovery, they all have one thing in common...they are survivors!

Each of our participants are strong, driven individuals who know the importance of hard work, determination, power, and positivity. We, the Physiologists of the MERCE Center love what we do and feel blessed, honored, and inspired to meet and develop relationships with the stroke survivors we work with.


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