Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 11: Vibrators

Hey, I never promised this would be a PG blog. 

Today, Brian took Simon to KKI and I joined him there later to meet with the therapists and discuss progress. It turned out that we didn't have time today to talk about everything in full, but we've scheduled a meeting for Monday to review goals, progress and plans for the week ahead. Needless to say, I am really looking forward to that.

On a related topic, this morning Brian was asked to be part of a survey about how KKI could better serve the parents of the patients. Our request (and really our only issue): provide some way for parents to observe the therapy sessions without getting in the way. The kid's swimming class manages to have a 2 way mirror, and I am a lot more interested in this program than I am in the doggy paddle (no offense meant to swimming instructors anywhere). Hopefully, the fact that they asked the question shows that they are planning to make improvements to the facility in that area, and in future it will no longer be an issue.

Brian said that Simon was actually happy to go into "school" this morning, quite a switch! However, when I got there, you could hear him crying from down the hallway. They were working on another new theraputic method to strengthen and stimulate the muscles of his left arm -- electrocution.

That's right. They were electrocuting my son. And I actually thought it was a brilliant idea.

Now, before we go all "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," let me explain that this is pretty benign stuff. The therapy involves taping small electrodes over the muscle you wish to stimulate, then applying a very low electronic current which causes the muscle to contract. The goal is to build strength and send a message to the brain to help it "wake up."

It is referred to as EMS, and it is one heck of an alarm clock.

I know from experience that this doesn't hurt. (How, you ask?) On our cold, bleak, and rainy 5-day Caribbean cruise last winter, Brian and I made full use of the ship's spa since there was no sun to be had. There, I tried a treatment that was purported to eradicate cellulite using seaweed wraps and electronic pulses. This was, of course, a complete waste of money, but in my defense I'd had several pina coladas at that point, and hey -- now I can say that I know how my son's therapy feels. I no longer feel like a complete idiot for letting an aesthetician slather my tush with green goo and then electrocute my butt.

Still an idiot, just not a complete idiot.

EMS is something that we have actually tried before in a much milder/less direct way. Simon's wonderful OT from the "Infants and Toddlers" program (a state program providing therapy services in home for little ones in need) had several vibrating therapy tools she would use to work on his paralyzed side. The intense, rhythmic stimulation was key to getting the brain to make the connection to the unused muscles.

Now, I would tell you to keep your mind out of the gutter here, but that is exactly where mine ended up.

About this same time, a newlywed friend of mine hosted a "Slumber Party" -- sort of like a tupperware party but they weren't, um, selling plastic dishware. They did have an interesting assortment of other items, however, and one of these seemed to suit our need particularly well...

I had often thought that using vibration on Simon's arm and hand was effective. I noticed that he seemed more aware of the limb after I used a toy, or even an electric toothbrush over the area for a few minutes. I hypothesized that if a little vibration was good, maybe a more sustained use of constant stimuli would have an even greater benefit. The trouble was finding a way to do that.

Well, a one-year-old's wrist is about the same diameter as... something else. And they make little, um, bracelets, with vibrators and batteries built in -- completely encased in a soft, safe plastic. In rainbow colors! And waterproof! Perfect for a teething, hemiplegic baby!

You should have seen the hostess' surprise when I ordered a dozen (for safety reasons you couldn't replace the batteries), and told her they were for my kid.

Anyway, past success with EMS has made me optimistic about this new course of therapy. The PT said that sustained use of this type of machine can have serious long-term benefits. If it really works for us, I may even be able to get insurance to help pay for us to have one at home (heaven knows we've more than met our deductible this year!) for continued therapy.

In that case, maybe I should give the cellulite reduction "therapy" another go...

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