Among COVID-19’s collateral damage is the loss of in-person rehabilitation for recovering stroke patients. Two third-year science students at Western have taken action to mitigate that damage.
Ganathyashan Chelliahpillai and Varunaavee Sivashanmugathas took the initiative to launch a stroke rehabilitation kit dubbed StrokeSMaRT (Stroke Self-Management and Rehabilitation Tools) after listening to a webinar about the issue.
In the webinar presented by Manny Paiva, coordinator of the stroke rehabilitation team at St. Joseph’s Health Care London, they learned patients exhibiting stroke symptoms were not going to the hospital due to COVID-19 concerns, and that those recovering from strokes could not get hands-on care.
“The team at St. Joseph’s was telling us about how disrupted the stroke rehabilitation programs are because primary care teams can’t really come into contact with the patients,” Chelliahpillai said. “So, it’s meaningful that we can help people with this grassroots movement that’s really simple and really reproduceable.”
To assemble the kits, which include simple household items such as paper clips and tennis balls, the students looked at existing rehab programs, especially those geared toward patients doing exercises at home. Items in the kit were chosen to help patients strengthen muscles and challenge fine motor movements while being affordable and easy to use.
“We contacted the community stroke rehabilitation team at St. Joseph’s hospital, and they helped with refining the kits and acted like mentors,” Chelliahpillai said. “When everything was solidified, we applied to the [TakingITGlobal] grant.”
So far, 100 kits have been delivered to St. Joseph’s for distribution and 50 more are ready to be delivered. They will be used by the Thames Valley community stroke rehabilitation team and the comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation program, said Paiva. The students have started a GoFundMe campaign to help create 100 additional kits.
“This project has been a great way for me to play a more active role in the London community, especially during the pandemic,” said Sivashanmugathas. “It’s nice to know that this simple initiative could help many stroke survivors with rehabilitation in the future.”
For early next year, they hope to get more students involved and expand to the Greater Toronto Area as well as remote places where it is hard to access stroke rehabilitation.
“It is a really great initiative and it’s good to see that these kits received input from our therapist, but also that it meets the patients’ needs by helping them with their continued rehabilitation in the community,” Paiva said. “I’m really thankful the students saw the gap and were willing to do something about it.”