In November 2012, Denise Melzer suffered a stroke while riding a taxi cab in her native Brazil. Several emergency surgical procedures saved her life, but this 37-year-old mother of two young daughters lost her ability to speak and move the right side of her body. Rehabilitation programs in Brazil helped her improve her speech and develop some ability to get around, but her curiosity and determination led her to seek additional treatment programs. Ms. Melzer learned about a new program in the United States that employed robotic devices to guide intensive movement therapy, so she found her way to the North Shore-LIJ Feinstein Institute for Medical Research where investigator Bruce Volpe, MD, and research coordinator Johanna Chang run a robotic therapy research program. The Feinstein Institute team has placed additional robotic devices at Transitions of Long Island, a comprehensive neuro-rehabilitation program, part of the North Shore-LIJ Rehabilitation Network.
“These robots interact with the patient so that if he or she can move, the robot will measure and grade the movement providing increased intensity and just the right challenge to encourage improved performance,” Dr. Volpe said. “There are four different robots that can train movement of the arm, hand and ankle.”
Rehabilitation consisted of a five-week program that lasted for five hours a day, five days a week. Ms. Melzer benefited not only from robotic therapy, but also from the skill and expertise of physical therapists Soledad Tomasino, DPT, and Aileen Roginski, PT, DPT, from STARS (Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation Services). “It was rewarding to see how encouraged Ms. Melzer was as she achieved small gains in her ability to perform her normal activities. It gave her the confidence to continue to work toward greater independence,” stated Ms. Roginski.
Ms. Melzer experienced change in all her movements and was able to hold a tray and a cup, eat grapes unassisted and even engage in independent bathing and grooming for the first time since her stroke.
“Ms. Melzer was very motivated and she worked hard every session to achieve her goals. She demonstrated gains in range of motion, balance, ambulation and, most important, improved her confidence with routine activities,” stated Ms. Tomasino.
“I am much more confident when I walk, and someday I want to get back to running,” Ms. Melzer said.