Unique, intensive program helps stroke patients improve years later

12:08 AM, Mar 26, 2013   |    comments
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MAPLE GROVE, Minn. - Stroke survivors are finding new hope in a rehabilitation program offered right here in the Twin Cities. 

It's the only one of its kind in the region and it's giving survivors new skills even years after they've had their stroke.

It's called the Intensive Aphasia Program and it's offered by North Memorial.

A group of about 15, stroke survivors and their family members, met in Maple Grove on Tuesday for one of the sessions. 

The stroke survivors have a condition called aphasia, caused by stroke, which has disrupted their ability to communicate. 

The program helps them, with their family members by their sides, improve communication skills.

Speech pathologist Gail Lommen believes it's one of only ten such programs in the world.

Lommen said, "This goes above and beyond traditional therapy."

Traditionally, she said stroke patients get one hour a day of therapy or less which ends after just six months to a year, based on thinking that it's all the further they'll progress.

She said, "That has been the exact traditional thought, that there has been this plateau.  Well we've dispelled that myth."

The Intensive Aphasia Program is designed for those who are more than six months beyond their stroke. 

It's five days a week, three-and-a-half hours a day of rehabilitation, for four weeks.

Lommen said, "And we now have ten years worth of data to support the fact that this makes a difference."

Family members get the support they need.

Charlene Freeman's partner, Sara Shallman, suffered a stroke.  Freeman said in the program, "It was the first time I could breathe because we could talk to other people that knew what we go through on a daily basis."

For survivors like Sara Shallman, who suffered her stroke two-and-a-half years ago, speech, comprehension and writing improves.  Shallman also has new confidence.  She said with a big smile, "Oh, I'm smart."

The program also gives participants like her new tools, apps and technology to use when the words are hard to find.

With an app on her phone Shallman said, "I was lucky."  Then with her own voice she said, "... was lucky to have the program."

The Intensive Aphasia Program is now in its tenth year at North Memorial and in most cases, it is covered by insurance. 


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