When you've lost the ability to do something that came so naturally before you'd probably feel a little lost. For people recovering from traumatic brain injuries, strokes or surgery itself it's a long, hard journey back. Avera McKennan's staff of occupational therapists work hard by putting patients through the paces on Easy Street.
There is nothing easy about recovering from a stroke, but Alma Black is determined to do it with the help of Occupational Therapist's like Rhonda Denney she's doing it on easy street.
Alma says, " I don't work as hard as the girls do. All the time they put in and the patience they have. My word."
Easy Street is a simulated city set inside Avera McKennan Hospital. Everything is built to scale so rehab patients can test their level of ability to do everyday tasks. They have a restaurant so you can practice getting in and out of booths, cash register counters, a mini theater with an incline and seats just like the real ones. Everything is realistic.
Being at the pretend grocery store helps Alma test her tolerance for standing and using one arm to weigh fruit.
Avera McKennan OT Rhonda Denney says, "It's something that is real to them.Something they do everyday and it's nice to be able to practice then they know when they get home they have the confidence to leave home and go out and do it."
Another feature on Easy Street is a bank. The doors of banks are typically pretty heavy so this allows them to practice opening the door while navigating with a cane or wheelchair.
The washer and dryer are real and since a lot of the rehab patients are also patients at the hospital they actually wash their own clothes.
Rhonda Denney says, "By practicing all these things now we can really see where their skills are to this point. A lot of times it's not going to be where they were before whatever brought them to the hospital, but at least this gives them an opportunity to practice and realize that life is different. They can still go on and do the things they like to do."
Alma says, "No pain no gain. You gotta keep going and they give you the incentive to try again."
Once Alma makes her way across Easy Street, she'll get the green light to Independence Avenue. A place she desperately wants to be and credits the OT's for pushing her to get there.
Patients like Alma who are recovering from a stroke have occupational, physical and speech therapy 3 hours a day, 5 days a week and 3 hours on the weekend.
On behalf of Occupational Therapy Month, we salute the hard work you do.