Health Team

Patients use video games, animals during rehab

Posted May 13, 2009 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated May 13, 2009 6:54 p.m. EDT

— At FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, doctors are using video games and animals to help patients recover from a stroke or heart surgery.

Pam Calloway, 59, underwent a quadruple heart bypass. To recover, she uses the Nintendo Wii as part of her therapy. She stands and swings her arms during games like bowling and tennis.

“I do think therapy is definitely the key to recovery,” Calloway said.

Doctors say Calloway’s therapy is important but difficult because some veins in her legs were removed for use in her heart bypass.

“When you take them out of their head and give them something else to concentrate on…they really forget that they’re standing for as long as they are,” occupational therapist Amber Parke Chalker said.

Even brushing Cassius, a boxer, and Tess, a golden retriever, can be therapy. The dogs are specially trained for working with patients.

“Given that our patients here may have speech impediments or have a flaccid side, they may pet the dog clumsily, so the dogs have to be able to react in a friendly manner,” Chalker said.

Fetching just comes naturally to Tess and it helps heart rehab patient 85-year-old Joe Diemar.

“I haven’t been very active because I have COPD, which is a breathing problem,” Diemar said.

Both the dogs and the games make the hard work of recovery something to look forward to – rather than dread.