Archive for Thursday, June 24, 2010

Keeping Wii fit

Providence Medical Center uses game system to enhance joint replacement therapy

Nancy Watkins, at right, tries her hand for the first time at the Nintendo Wii, which was part of her physical therapy process at Providence Medical Center following a joint replacement surgery. The Wii is being used to aid in the recovery process by promoting movement and balance. At left is occupational therapist Kate Felchlia.

Nancy Watkins, at right, tries her hand for the first time at the Nintendo Wii, which was part of her physical therapy process at Providence Medical Center following a joint replacement surgery. The Wii is being used to aid in the recovery process by promoting movement and balance. At left is occupational therapist Kate Felchlia.

June 24, 2010

A new addition to Providence Medical Center has joint replacement therapy patients moving on into the 21st century.

The Kansas City, Kan., hospital purchased a Nintendo Wii system, through funding provided by the Providence Saint John Foundation, about six weeks ago to add a spark of fun into what can often be grueling physical therapy for patients recovering from painful total joint replacement surgery. Karen Orr, operations and clinical resource specialist with Providence, said thus far the benefits of the new technology have been plentiful.

“Probably the biggest benefit (to the Wii) is the rehab potential that (the patients) have,” Orr said. “It really maximizes their rehab potential while putting that little piece of fun in there, so maybe they’re not paying attention to, ‘Ow, that kinda hurts.’”

Joint replacement patients at Providence take part in group therapy sessions twice a day. Orr said the Wii has reduced the amount of recovery time, with patients who come in for their surgeries on Monday leaving by Thursday, and Tuesday patients getting to go home that Friday. Games like sword fighting, bowling and golfing, where the patients encourage each other and get to take part in a healthy dose of competition, Orr said, have a lot to do with that.

“It’s really a lot of fun, patients are having a lot of fun with it,” Orr said. “We’ve got some good, friendly competition, while they’re … moving their bodies, they’re working, they’re doing their therapy … They can sword fight against the therapist and they get the opportunity to whack on the therapist you know, put the two characters against each other. So a lot of fun competition and it really, it gets them moving.”

The Wii also helps in such areas as balance and motor skills, Orr said. But with most patients old enough to be someone’s grandparent, she said there’s usually lots of hesitancy prior to grabbing onto that controller for the first time. Still, many patients leave the hospital with a much greater appreciation for the virtual gaming system.

Take Nancy Watkins, for example, who took up the Wii for the first time last week during a group therapy session at Providence.

“It’s fun,” she said, noting that she had watched her grandchildren play the Wii several times before. “I like the fact that it’s interactive and that it’s active.”

Watkins, who is 71, said she enjoyed watching her grandchildren play basketball and other games on the Wii, but their obsession was such that she expected to never have the chance to play it herself. Unless she took matters into her own hands, that is.

“I’m gonna lock (them) in a closet (so that they’ll) let me play,” she said with a laugh.

Watkins said she liked that the Wii gave her a chance to take part in activities she otherwise wouldn’t be able to take part in anymore, such as bowling.

Others in her group, however, weren’t as convinced the Wii had anything to offer.

“It’s kinda stupid,” said Kinney Luwallen, 81, who played against Watkins in a sword-fighting match. “It’s a kid’s game. I don’t know whether it was fun or not.”

Whether or not the patients enjoy themselves comes second to the benefits the Wii is bringing to bear on their recovery, Orr said.

“They progress quicker because they’re able to encourage each other and learn from each other,” she said.

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