Students helping stroke patients with unique kits


When learning that people suffering from strokes were being negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, third year science students from Western University Varunaavee Sivashanmugathas and Ganathyashan (Yashan) Chelliahpillai acted fast.

“We had heard how patients with strokes were struggling, especially as many who were showing symptoms of a stroke were not immediately going to the emergency room to be assessed because they were afraid of the virus,” says Yashan. Without quick assessment and treatment, stroke patients are at risk of more severe and long-lasting complications and the need for more intensive rehabilitation.

Laura Veenstra, R/TRO Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Thames Valley Community Stroke Rehabilitation Team

“We also found out that due to the pandemic, many in-person rehabilitation programs for stroke patients had to be paused, with care moving virtually through telephone and video,” adds Varunaavee. The pair quickly started brainstorming how they could help stroke patients be successful and they landed on an idea for Stroke Rehabilitation Kits. The kits contain low cost household items like playing cards, buttons and zippers, blocks and brain puzzles, that can help rehabilitation patients practice their dexterity and fine motor skills and build on memory and strength. “We did a lot of research on what tools could help patients the most and connected with the team at Parkwood Institute to pitch our idea and further refine this tool,” explains Yashan.

St. Joseph’s Stroke Rehabilitation Program Coordinator Manny Paiva was impressed by the duo’s ingenuity and want to help patients succeed, “The positive energy that both Yashan and Varunaavee have brought to this project has been amazing. It’s been great to be a part of this initiative.”

The pair has made 100 Stroke Rehabilitation Kits so far, that are being distributed to St. Joseph’s patients. “It’s been very rewarding to be able to start this grassroots initiative and we take pride in the fact that it will help stroke patients in their recovery journey,” says Varunaavee.

The kits were funded by the Taking it Global youth grant.  

This story appeared in Issue 03 of My St. Joseph's. View more inspiring stories from the magazine.


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