Among the ways a brain can fail – tumour, aneurysm, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s – stroke is one of the most common. An innocuous word – stroke – you stroke a cat, or a baby’s cheek. But stroke in medical terminology can be lethal.
A stroke is what impacted then 16-year-old Jack Fenton while undergoing heart surgery just over a year ago. Three bubbles of oxygen from the heart and lung machine he was connected to travelled through to lodge in his brain, causing a stroke that left him without movement in his left arm and the left side of his face completely numb. The doctors knew what had happened and were quick to act. Problematically though, as Jack’s mother Marianne explained, the therapy staff spoke as if Jack wouldn’t recover.
“We were in tears when we left Brisbane. Staff were saying, ‘we’ll find another way for you to do things. Find another school. You know you’ve had a brain injury. You know you won’t be going back to normal school’,” Marianne said of the experience.
In true lioness mode, Marianne refused to see Jack’s immobility and numbness as a permanent part of his life, seeking out services closer to their home in the Sunshine Coast hinterland – determined that Jack would recover completely.
When you meet Jack, the first thing that strikes you is the absence of any signs of a stroke.
At the time of the stroke, Marianne saw the need to find therapies to assist in Jack’s recovery as a matter of urgency. The success of her determination is evidenced in his remarkable progress a mere 15 months on.
Marianne began researching and discovered a number of therapeutic approaches to help Jack, now 17, regain mobility and movement in his left arm – drawing on therapies from acupuncture to physiotherapy to a medical assistive device known as the MOllii Suit.
MOllii is a functional garment that consists of a jacket and a pair of pants with a computer control unit that sends electrical signals to the targeted areas of the body via electrodes. MOllii is uses assistive technology with a unique application for people with spasticity, motor impairment, increased or decreased muscular tension, mobility issues and muscular pain and be used by people for a number of muscular and neurological conditions in adults and children alike. MOllii can be rented or purchased under the NDIS plan.
Accessing MOllii locally through Suncoast Integrated Therapies on the Sunshine Coast, Marianne soon discovered that MOllii helped restore movement and mobility for Jack. Being able to utilise the suit on a daily basis for a month was invaluable to Jack’s full recovery she believes.
Over the last 15 months, Jack has focussed intensely on his rehabilitation. It is this fierce determination, alongside his mother’s strong will, that has reaped extraordinary results. Regaining full use of his arm with only a small amount of tingling in his fingertips remaining, Jack has returned to his old school, is working part-time at the local IGA store and getting ready to sit for his manual driving licence. The touch footy field also welcomed him back to his first game recently, with Jack mucking it up in the mud with his team-mates.
Jack acknowledges that if it weren’t for his mother’s stubborn streak and dogged determination that motivated him to adhere to the rigorous therapy schedules, the future might have looked very different for him.
Each year, an estimated 50,000 Australians will suffer a stroke at a cost of $54bn to the economy, resulting in physical and mental disabilities. There are an estimated 500,000 stroke survivors in Australia.
Stroke Awareness Week is held from 31 August – 7 September 2020.