ARNI training – April 2010.
I came across ARNI in a note about a new Technology in Medicine section at the Royal Society of Medicine. A presentation on Stroke Rehabilitation by Dr Tom Balchin was listed for the first meeting in June. With the help of my wife I found information via Google, which was sufficiently interesting for me to call the contact number given, where I spoke immediately to Dr Balchin. After a short talk he offered me a session in Lingfield on Tuesday April 29, warning that it would be hard work and I accepted.
I am 77, and until I had a stroke in December 2008 I had thought I was fairly fit for my age. Apart from moderate Asthma, no acute attacks, but walking up steep slopes difficult I was still energetic and regularly playing tennis. After 8 weeks in the stroke unit at Oxford’s JR and local Abingdon hospital I came home able to walk short distances with a stick, but mainly in a wheelchair. With outpatient PT I progressed to walking reasonable distances with a wheeled frame and was then referred to the Oxford Centre for Enablement (OCE). I was accepted for a 4 week inpatient stay in May 2009 and made considerable progress in confidence, in mobility and regaining some function in my hand. Although my right hand, arm and leg were still badly impaired, with much muscle loss, I found that I could get into most cars, and get up stairs with a left hand rail to assist, and could, with help, therefore begin to live and enjoy much of a normal life, visiting children and friends, going out to restaurants, theatres and travelling. I still hoped to improve, but had given up on e.g. expecting to play tennis again, and had begun to accept that I could go on fairly happily as I was.
The visit to ARNI was both a shock and a reinvigoration. Tom (we were immediately comfortable on with first names) started by insisting that I leave my frame behind and got myself past the few steps into the work area. This accomplished we went over details and programme, then my wife left, a trainee assistant arrived and I embarked upon the core exercise of getting down to the mat and standing up again without using any external aid. For the next five hours with a short break for lunch this was the main event. I mastered getting down fairly quickly, but in spite of early promise and getting very close I did not quite manage a complete stand up. At the end when we had hoped to demonstrate to my returning wife my remaining muscles were really tired and I realised I needed to do much more to be generally fitter. Around lunch time we also tried a series of hand exercises to improve grip and flexibility with a short broomstick and grip device.
I left ARNI exhausted, but inspired with enthusiasm that I could regain much of my lost function, and also with the knowledge that it would only happen if I was prepared to put in the effort and time that was needed. So far I have recovered from the many aches that first session left, equipped myself with sticks and gripper and hope to make contact with the local trainer to retry the standing up exercise. My priority is to achieve this, while still finding time for the normal life, which I enjoy and which I need to stay in good spirits