By Shellina Herink
I am a graduate of North Tama High school, daughter of Barb Hayek (now Barb Wieben) and the late Tony Hayek of Clutier. I graduated from Iowa State University and am currently in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Des Moines University. I anticipate to graduate and become licensed in the Spring/Summer of 2014.
March in Iowa this year consisted of snowy weather and icy sidewalks. Many students were looking forward to a week away from classes during Spring Break. Perhaps some vacationed south and others simply enjoyed time off by visiting friends or family. I managed to do the exact opposite by staying in Iowa and participating in an elective course offered at Des Moines University. Come to find out, it was the best Spring Break adventure during my lifetime of education! It was fulfilling to put into practice the years of knowledge I have obtained in the classroom as I have pursued a professional career as a doctor of physical therapy.
Stroke Camp was an elective course led by Dr. Kathy Mercuris, P.T., D.H.S., C/NDT, CEEAA, consisting of 2nd year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students, physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) faculty and clinicians, and seven patient volunteers post-stroke. The purpose of the camp was to provide a hands-on learning experience for 14 DPT students where they could refine their skill-sets while working with the patients to achieve functional improvements.
Data was collected on each patient volunteer to examine the effectiveness of the camp's interventions and demonstrate improvements. The camp was held for five consecutive days, Monday through Friday. Pre-testing was performed on Monday and post-testing on Friday. Data collection included gait velocity, timed walking tests, endurance tests, functional questionnaires, balance testing, and upper extremity functioning. The patient's caregivers were allowed to assist in completing functional questionnaires, consent forms, and history forms provided to each patient.
Physical therapy interventions were completed for a total of 3.5 to 4 hours each day on Tuesday through Thursday and 2 hours on Monday following the pre-testing. These interventions were directed by the students and supervised by the licensed therapists and focused on improving gait, balance, strength, as well as hand and leg function while meeting specific goals for each patient. Interventions were also tailored daily by the students to address the needs and goals of each patient. The week came and went quickly and was reported to be a fulfilling week for all.
Each day started and ended with group activities led by the students which provided a way for students and patients to connect on a more personal level. Students honed in on the emotional component of stroke during their opening activities where they showed inspiring videos of individuals that had overcome similar hardships with courage and persistence. The day ended with games including balloon volleyball, putt-putt-golf, and bean bag toss.
"Just because I can't do it today, doesn't mean I can't do it tomorrow" stated one patient. This was proven to be true as many of the patients by the end of the week were able to move their hand or arm in ways they had not since their stroke! It was rewarding to see the determination in the patients as they courageously performed the challenges presented to them by the students. "A little hard work never hurt anyone" was a comment overheard from another patient. Their hard work paid off as post-test data indicated astonishing improvements.
Post-test data proved one patient's quote of "old habits can be broken" to be true. All seven patients improved in at least two of seven objectively measured categories. One patient was able to walk over 800 feet farther, unassisted, during the 6-minute walk test. Another patient deducted 14 seconds in the Timed "Up and Go" test which determines the amount of time a person stands from a chair, walks 3 meters, turns around, walks back to the chair and sits down.
One of my peers said it best during the closing ceremony as he was speaking to the patients. He stated "If you learned even half as much from us as we did from you this week it was a huge success." I learnedjust as much about being a better person as I did about effective treatment interventions. From my patients, I learned that every day is beautiful, to celebrate the small goals, and as long as I keep trying, I will never fail. I watched the "fight" in the patients as they performed every last effort to complete an exercise to fatigue or challenge their minds to connect to their body part which was experiencing diminished sensation or motor control secondary to their stroke. I witnessed the love of a caregiver as they gave of themselves wholeheartedly. Finally, I learned that no matter where you are in your endeavors, there is always room for improvement. This was made evident by patients who were over five years following their stroke and still making significant improvements through their persistence, courage and mindful efforts. Patients are filled with life lessons. I am grateful for my quest towards a career that is just as rewarding for my patients as it is for me.
Shellina Herink, Des Moines University, DPT class of 2014