Last updated: August 25. 2013 6:54AM - 164 Views

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WAPAKONETA — Never take for granted the ability to zip up your coat.Logan Stechman doesn’t.The 14-year-old Wapakoneta boy had a stroke during birth and doctors told his parents, Sarah and Bryon Stechman, that he would probably need a wheelchair and have extreme limitations in his upper extremities. He would need constant care.So Sarah and Bryon did what many parents of disabled children do: “We ignored what we were told and forged through,“ Sarah said. “He was delayed quite a bit in the milestones like turning over and sitting up — about a three-to-four month delay, but he did progress through the toddler years. ... He has adapted to a pretty traditional lifestyle,” she said.At about age 4, Logan was given the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. What that boils down to is that he is hemiplegic, with only the right side of his body is affected, according to Sarah. He has limited use of his right arm and hand, and his right leg is also affected, but to a lesser extent. And as Sarah said, he has adapted well, although he mainly uses his left side to compensate. There are not many obstacles he hasn’t overcome.Which brings us back to that coat zipper.Logan can now accomplish this task so many take for granted. It took hard work and determination on his part, with the help of a therapy called the SaeboFlex and St. Rita’s Medical Center.About a year ago, St. Rita’s offered a community-wide screening for patients who could potentially benefit from the Saebo therapy. A local television station ran a story on it, which the Stechmans saw. They signed Logan up for a screening.Marsha Dresbach, OTR/L, an occupational therapist with St. Rita’s, said the SaeboFlex involves strengthening weakened muscles through repetition. She was specially trained by the Saebo company prior to the medical center’s screening.The SaeboFlex therapy is actually a custom-fitted device for the hand that allows individuals the ability to use their hand to grasp and release objects by supporting the wrist, hand, and fingers, according to saebo.com. A spring system assists in re-opening the hand to release the object.The goal, according to Dresbach, is for the patient to eventually be able to grasp and release without the device. The therapy requires commitment — two 45-minute sessions each day at home and additional sessions with a therapist. It’s a lot of work, and there is a high potential for regression if the therapy is stopped, she said. Patients must understand exactly what they’re getting into beforehand.And because the therapy is geared toward adult stroke victims, the SaeboFlex wasn’t a sure thing for Logan.People who have strokes as adults already know how to use their affected muscles to grasp objects, pick them up, release them and so on. The brain has the knowledge — it just needs to re-learn it after a stroke. “The brain learns through repetition. It’s different in treating a child who never had functional use. Adults who had strokes can pull that information from their brain,” Dresbach said. Logan’s brain never knew how to do these tasks with his right side, so there is no reference point. His brain in infancy adapted and learned how to do things differently. The SaeboFlex therapy would have to train his brain for the first time how to do these tasks. Difficult, but not impossible.Logan is making progress and where before he was essentially not using his right arm into any activity, “now he is naturally incorporating the arm without prompting,” Sarah said. Dresbach is pleased with his progress as well.“I think that (the SaeboFlex) is an excellent adjunct to traditional therapy. It allows people to see that the arm can be functional,” she said. “A lot of times it sparks something in the patient … that they can use their hand. It increases motivation.”As is the case with Logan, according to Sarah. Oftentimes, therapy and kids are like oil and water, and he has resisted other types of therapy, but “this one he’s excited about,” she said.So what does Logan have to say about all of this?“It is easier to do things with my right hand. It is more flexible, not as tight,“ he said. “I can pick up a ball, zip a zipper, grab hold of things.”Logan said he enjoys fishing and working in the yard — two activities which come a little easier now. According to Sarah, before the SaeboFlex therapy, Logan would need assistance with both — now he can mow the lawn and fish independently.“I think he feels a sense of pride and accomplishment. These are things he sees his peers doing and now being about to do some of these things independently … he has much more self confidence,” Sarah said.It’s not over, however. Even though progress has been made and the enthusiasm is there, it’s really only just begun for Logan. Sarah said the therapy could last several years.“The next step is there is going to be a lot of catching up to do — training in different types of skills, Dresbach said. “It’s going to be quite progressive.”That’s OK, according to Logan. He’ll just take it one coat zipper at a time.

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