Firing up muscles

You funded innovative equipment for people recovering from a stroke, brain or spinal cord injury.
Occupational therapy and physiotherapist assistant, working closely with Mitchell Skillings on his rehabilitation using the bike.
Kinesiologist, Ariel Gavronski (left) works closely with Mitchell Skillings (centre) on his rehabilitation using the bike, while Stephanie Cornell looks on.

“It’s really a cool piece of equipment,” says Stephanie Cornell, physiotherapist and Coordinator in St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Program, of the new functional electric stimulation (FES) bike.

For people with partial or complete paralysis or loss of function of their muscles as a result of a stroke, brain, spinal cord injury or other neurological impairment, electrical stimulation helps fire up dormant muscles. When paired with a bike, the stimulation and extra boost of the electric current allows people to begin to rebuild their muscles.

Thanks to donor support in fall of 2023, a new FES bike has been purchased. This means greater access to rehabilitation for patients, and offers the opportunity for increased programming.

The bike, which can be used to exercise arms and legs individually, has endless benefits.

It helps people to meet their cardio requirements and to maintain their bone density. It also helps their body repattern movement and reminds their brain and muscles about how to move their arms or legs while at the same time strengthening the muscles to support the action.

All of the bikes at Parkwood are located in a rehabilitation gym, creating a sense of community and allowing patients to connect with their peers who are on similar care journeys.

“It’s really inspiring for patients who have a newer injury to see those who may be further along in their recovery,” says Stephanie. “They can see what might be possible for themselves.”

The bike can be personalized to meet individual needs and the care team works closely with each person to set their unique goals and determine the length of their rehabilitation plan. Some people use it one to two times a week for up
to 60 minutes while they are receiving inpatient care, when others continue on for months as outpatients. And thanks to smart technology, the experience can be interactive, allowing people to receive ongoing feedback about their speed, power and progress.

“For some people, the FES bike is one of the best ways they can achieve and maintain their muscle mass; we’re so grateful to the community for their support,” says Stephanie.

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