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For stroke patient, recovery is more than rehabilitation

Aug 12 2012

Four and a half years after suffering a severe stroke, Bob Mainwaring drove to his first college class.

In May, the Colwood resident started taking correspondence courses at Douglas College on the Lower Mainland in supply management. By making slight modifications to his car, he's been able to drive to the oncampus portions of the classes.

Mainwaring has taken the step his doctor, Caroline Quartly, says is the most crucial for the patients she works with: increasing functionality in society.

For Mainwaring, 52, the first time he drove his car again was an 'aha' moment.

So was the day his heel hit the floor of his living room last fall. He yelled in excitement - it was the first time his left foot had fully touched the ground since his stroke in January 2008.

He credits Quartly's collaborative spasticity program - based at the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children's Health, but open to all ages - for his success.

Mainwaring started his treatment with the collaborative program a year after his stroke. He said he didn't have much strength before his first visit, but within six days, he was able to stand for 15 minutes thanks to a brace from the clinic.

After standing came walking - something doctors told Mainwaring's wife, Sheila, that he would never be able to do again.

Mainwaring's treatment combines braces, botox injections, gait analysis and regular meetings with physicians.

A brace that electronically stimulates the muscles in his foot and the botox injections he receives every three months are helping him gain control of the muscles affected by the stroke.

But the program is more than just physical rehabilitation.

"I hold my patients accountable for their own health," Quartly said.

The collaborative program brings together the expertise of physiotherapists, physicians and orthotists to treat patients who have otherwise finished their rehabilitation in the hospital setting.

When Quartly moved to Victoria in 2005 after teaching in McMaster University's faculty of medicine, she was impressed by the expertise of the physiotherapists on Vancouver Island, but noticed there wasn't a specialized rehabilitation hospital.

"We're not looking at whether botox works, not whether bracing works, not whether physio works - we know they all work," Quartly said. "I'm simply saying that, used in combination in this group of very, very hard to treat patients, we can make a difference and give them a sense of autonomy."

Mainwaring said it was important for him to not only gain his mobility back, but to carry on with life - like getting married, which he and Sheila were able to do about a year and a half after his stroke.

And when Mainwaring finishes his courses at Douglas College next summer, he'll be looking to get back into the workforce.

"This kind of care needs to go on for other people," Mainwaring said.

"I would not be driving my car if it wasn't for these people. I wouldn't be motivated to get out and do something."


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