Home kit to help stroke patients

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
CONSUMER AFFAIRS, AND ATTRACTIONS AND EVENTS REPORTER
Last updated 05:00 11/08/2012
Abigail Ragendran
PHIL REID/ FAIRFAX NZ
IN TOUCH: Abigail Ragendran has designed a hand exercise device for stroke patients.

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Stroke patients may soon be able to rehabilitate themselves from home thanks to the invention of a Wellington engineering student.

Victoria University masters student Abigail Rajendran, 23, has designed a stroke rehabilitation device and has a company working to patent and sell it.

Her device straps on to a person's hand to exercise it in an opening and closing motion, while a connected computer game activates and keeps both sides of the brain engaged.

Once the person regains the strength to do the motion themselves, they can increase the resistance from a special liquid in the device also used in Audi car suspensions.

Until now, stroke patients relied on expensive and large rehabilitation equipment available only in hospitals. But this new device would be something they could use regularly at home, Miss Rajendran said.

Im-Able, a New Zealand company specialising in stroke rehabilitation, saw the device's potential and got funding from the Science and Innovation Ministry so Miss Rajendran could develop a prototype.

Chief executive Sunil Vather said there were few, if any, home rehabilitation instruments available for people recovering from strokes.

"It's definitely innovative. The key issue is you have got technology but if it's not accessible to the people who need it you tend to lack a large chunk of the value for it."

New Zealand stroke patients would be lucky to get one or two hours of therapy time with a nurse a week, when it should be about 16 hours, he said.

Miss Rajendran said meeting with stroke victims had made it a lot more real.

"They want to start using it, to start getting better."

The tool was her "baby" that she would be glad to see made a reality.

Since being lured into engineering by a robot at a Victoria University open day, she aimed to build life-changing products rather than gadgets that were "cool".

"I guess it's building devices that are actually useful and necessary. The whole helping people out aspect of it."

One of Miss Rajendran's university supervisors, Dr Will Browne, was impressed by her infectious enthusiasm for creating practical applications.

"Her research into developing a stroke rehabilitation device has the potential to make a significant improvement to the lives of people affected by stroke."

Miss Rajendran will present her idea in Singapore later this month, and in Brisbane in October.

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Mr Vather hoped the final product would be completed in about a year.

Contact Jody O'Callaghan
Consumer affairs, and Attractions and Events reporter
Email: jody.o'callaghan@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @miss_jodyo

- The Dominion Post

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