Playing computer games to aid recovery

JOEL MAXWELL
Last updated 12:38 04/06/2014
Janna Lek
NEW GAMER: Paraparaumu’s Janna Lek who has embarked on computer gaming at 82 to help recover from a stroke.

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Kapiti Observer

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Computer games are being used to help a group of Kapiti residents recover from the effects of strokes and brain injuries.

The trial launched last month. Jenna Lek, who is one of the participants, has taken up computer gaming at the age of 82 to help recover physically and emotionally.

Lek said she has attended about three or four gaming sessions held at the Kapiti Community Centre.
She said having a stroke meant she had to "mprovise" with spoken language because she can't always find the right words.

"I lost quite a bit of my speech, but I'm not doing too bad."

She said the computer interaction is "more or less like a game".

"As far as I'm concerned it's more like a children's game, but the idea behind it is that you move you arms and things that can't be moved so easily."

The trial is being run by volunteers with community support group Stroke Central, and the company behind the games, IM-Able.

The games aim to help rewire the brain after injury, and thereby helping those who have survived a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Players use either a wireless handlebar device called an air mouse, or a table top device that straps onto a weakened hand.

Company chief executive Sunil Vather said the system re-forms the pathways between the brain and the affected parts of the body, such as the arm.

"The message is not getting from your brain to your arm, so by looking at a screen and responding to exercises or prompts from the screen, the brain's telling your arms and your legs in which direction to move, so you're trying to reconnect those pathways.'

"Meanwhile Lek said ''kids would love'' the game that she has played with the system.

"You have to get the butterflies, and pop 'em, and the more you pop the higher you score.''

But for Lek there are other advantages for becoming part of the trial group, she said.

"You go there and you meet your own kind of people. You find out that you're not the only one that is affected by a stroke. You find out there are quite a lot of people who are worse off than you.''

She said there are two kinds of strokes, the first where a clot blocks off an artery in the brain, damaging a part of the brain.

Hers was the second kind, a bleeding blood vessel in her brain, which happened about one and a half years ago and left her in hospital for two months.

"The first month I can't even remember. It's the queerest thing you know, all that time you don't know what you did."

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Her focus now is on trying to improve her condition and take all the benefits of the trial at the community centre.

"I think it is great to go to those meetings, because they lift you out of yourself, and you know you're not the only one that is like that."

- Kapiti Observer

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