A therapy which sends electrical impulses to nerves in the body has transformed daily life for one Pinderfields Hospital stroke patient.
54 year old Gill Jackson from Castleford, has been having weekly neuromuscular electro stimulation therapy to help restore the function of the muscles responsible for swallowing. Gill suffered a rare stroke two years ago, caused by a blockage in her brain stem, the area responsible for walking, breathing and swallowing.
Following three and a half months of rehabilitation in hospital she learnt to walk again but her voice was still weak and her swallowing reflex poor. During weekly sessions with her speech and language therapist Farzana Kausar, she worked through the traditional forms of therapy exercises, but there was still little improvement with her swallowing.
“I’d heard about electro stimulation therapy,” said Farzana, “and really wanted to give Gill the opportunity to try it. As a trust we needed to secure the funding to get the equipment and I also had to undergo the required training. All this took two years, but we got there.
As part of the therapy a small device is connected to electrodes which are attached by adhesive to the skin, and the electrical impulses which are transmitted cause the muscles to contract, which ultimately increases their strength.
“We’ve reached the end of four weeks of intensive therapy and the improvement in Gill’s swallowing has been amazing,” said Farzana. “She can now eat small meals and is able to swallow the saliva our body naturally produces, without the need to be constantly wiping it away.”
Since her stroke, Gill has remained extremely positive about her outcome, but this development in her recovery has really helped to move things on for her. She had been unable to do many things she previously enjoyed, such as swimming, but is now hoping to be able to resume some of her pastimes.
“Until you can’t do it, you really don’t realise how much you rely on the need to swallow and it’s not just about eating,” said Gill. “Even when you’re sat watching TV you are constantly swallowing - I hadn’t realised how much saliva we produce!”
Now that Gill’s muscles have improved she will need to keep using them to ensure they continue to strengthen. In time she should then develop sufficient strength to be able to eat full meals and have her feeding tube removed.
Gill was part of a pilot study of the neuromuscular electric stimulation therapy – Ampcare. The pilot is now complete and the results are very positive. Farzana is hoping the success of this therapy for Gill will pave the way for it to become more widely available across the Trust in the near future.