Getting Better Every Day

One year ago, stroke survivor Bob Langlais of Millbury had to rely on his wife, Tara, for daily tasks like getting food and putting on his shoes. His right arm was limp, and he wore a sling to support his shoulder from dislocating, due to muscle weakness. He could walk a short distance with a quad cane – which has a large base and four feet – but the neural connections between his brain and the muscles on his right side were affected by the stroke, so Bob’s activities were limited. Physical and occupational therapy has made all the difference in Bob Langlais’ recovery from a stroke.

Since he started at Milford Regional Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine in Northbridge in August 2020, Bob, 52, has progressed a great deal. He attributes his successes to the collaborative efforts of occupational therapist Erin Culross, OTR/L, CHT, and physical therapist Lindsay Schmitt, PT, DPT, who worked concurrently on different aspects of his rehabilitation. He can now mow the lawn, take out the trash, and use his leaf blower while wearing a leg brace. He also hopes to regain his driver’s license soon.

“I can do a lot of things around the house that I couldn’t do before,” notes Bob, a carpenter who suffered a stroke in December 2019. “I can lift my arm now and I’m walking further and more often. It’s all very slow, but steady.” During his occupational therapy sessions, Erin has concentrated on strengthening Bob’s upper extremities. For example, he has learned to use his non-dominant left hand for cutting meat and has strengthened his right hand enough to hold the fork. Her techniques involve passive range of motion, active exercises, and the re-linking of the brain and muscles through mirror therapy and at-home electrical stimulation.

“It’s rewarding to see someone feel better about themselves by doing daily tasks,” says Erin. “Those tasks might seem simple to other people, but if you’re not able to do them, you really lose a big sense of independence and self-worth.”

On physical therapy days, Lindsay has focused on improving motor control of his right leg and helping Bob to walk safely, manage stairs and do different types of “transfers,” such as climbing into his truck and getting up from the floor. Initially, she used a gait belt secured around Bob’s waist, which provided
a place for Lindsay to help stabilize him if he lost his balance. Now, she only uses it as extra support for a few balancing exercises. He has also advanced to using a less cumbersome, single-point cane and doing some exercises without his brace. Lindsay and Erin explain that they maintain an open dialogue about Bob’s progress.

“It’s great when clinicians can work together, and having that face-time is beneficial,” Lindsay says. “It’s nice that he can come to one place. Bob has been incredibly motivated to do a lot for himself at home and has been positive through his treatment, which makes a huge difference.” At home, Bob does exercises for both physical and occupational therapy and uses an electrical stimulation machine on his wrist extensors, finger extensors and ankle. One goal he’s building toward is releasing an object with his right hand. Bob also hopes that in 2022 he can return to work in a modified role by supervising as a general contractor.

“Lindsay and Erin push me to do my best and I push myself, too,” Bob says. “All these little accomplishments they helped me with mean the world to me. Without their help, who knows where I’d be? I feel like I’m getting better every day.”

Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine in Northbridge can be reached by calling 508-234-8792.

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