June 12, 2014 6:43 am
Updated: June 12, 2014 6:44 am

Saskatoon pilot program provides hope one step at a time

Watch above: clients take ‘The Next Step’ toward recovery

SASKATOON – It’s a six month pilot program that is changing lives. Since January, 10 participants have worked out on state of the art equipment, three times a week at the YWCA as part of a new community-based rehabilitation program.

It’s a need one physiotherapist identified for her mobility-limited clients who often require extra help beyond the average eight week rehab outpatient program offered.

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Her clients who struggled to recover from neurological conditions, spinal cord injury, acquired brain injury or multiple sclerosis would need a facility or program to continue physical activity.

In response, Michelle Riendeau and her colleagues pitched the idea of “Next Step,” a pilot project that would do just that.

“We thought wouldn’t it be nice if there was a gym that had a mat, that had an FES-bike that people could just go and use if they had a caregiver that could help them or a set of parallel bars, we are still hoping for a second bar but we have one for now … just the equipment that we know that they need to keep active and to improve,” said Riendeau.

Set to end in June, early indications from the pilot program have shown it to be very effective.

“I would say all of them have reported increase in strength and for some of them that translates into improved function,” said Pete Andrews with URO Medical Supplies, who jumped at the chance to be a volunteer exercise therapist for the pilot program.

During Global’s visit to the YWCA and watching participants workout, it was obvious there is no step too small for these participants as they stride towards a better quality of life and a journey to independence.

“It helped me a tremendous amount, it was three months before this program started, I could not do any stairs to visit family or friends, they had to transport me in the wheelchair into their home but now I can walk in there by myself,” said Marcella Balezantis, who suffers multiple sclerosis and had knee replacement surgery.

“It’s given me hope and confidence that I’ve never had before.”

Dr. Lynda Haverstock, who helped obtain financial support from the business community for wheel-chair accessible equipment for pilot program, also has a personal tie to the cause. Her daughter is one of the 10 participants.

“They become healthier people and that is good for all of us. I hope that other places realize that the only people who are the citizens of their communities are not the abled bodied ones, every person is a citizen and we should do what we can to ensure they’re healthy,” said Haverstock.

Over the summer months, the program’s data will be analyzed and discussions will continue to determine if the program can be made permanent.

“I hope that it can help other people like it has helped me,” said Balezantis.

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