Special bike boosts cycling stalwart's rehab

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 03/05/2014
Tony McAra
Supplied
WORKING OUT: Dunedin physiotherapist Richard Fitzpatrick monitors Tony McAra while he rides a special bicycle designed to help with rehabilitation from a stroke, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s.

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Cycling is in Tony McAra's blood.

But the 65-year-old's days on a bike came to a sudden halt while he was giving up his time for the sport he loves.

McAra suffered a stroke as he drove a support van during the tour of Southland last November.

Now almost six months after Tony's and his wife Jan's life changed forever, the avid cyclist is looking to get back on the bike.

That bike may not have two wheels or allow McAra to ride through Southland but it is helping him to get moving again.

Physiotherapists in Dunedin have got McAra pedalling on a YouBike. Originally designed for exercise following a spinal cord injury the YouBike is a multipurpose cardiovascular exercise bike which can be used by people recovering from a stroke, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's.

It can be floor mounted and used with or without a wheelchair or in a bed to exercise the arms and legs. It is lightweight and suitable for rehabilitation units, physical therapists or for anyone at home.

Jan McAra has been by her husband's side ever since the stroke put him in a coma and left him paralysed down his right side.

She resigned from her job to aid with his recovery.

"Tony had three strokes in the space of three months, one on his left side and two on his right side," she said.

"He has also overcome pneumonia and a urinary infection plus undergone general surgery on his throat following complications from having a trachea."

However, since her husband has begun cycling again his rehabilitation is picking up speed.

"These past few weeks we are seeing a small amount of controlled movement in the right leg which is fantastic," she said.

"Getting back on the bike is improving Tony's quality of life and aiding his rehabilitation.

"There is no question about it, when he hops on to that bike his whole physiology changes. Just to have that pleasure each day is awesome."

ISIS physiotherapist Richard Fitzpatrick said getting McAra back on a bike was important for his rehab.

"It's safe to say Tony was a keen cyclist prior to his stroke and getting him on a bicycle like this has been a good motivating factor in his recovery efforts."

When a patient enjoyed the exercise they were asked to do it was much easier to get them moving, he said.

Now McAra's mates from the cycling fraternity are banding together to get him his own YouBike for when he heads home from the ISIS rehabilitation unit in Dunedin in several weeks time.

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They are also hoping to raise enough funds to buy a second bike to donate to the ISIS centre.

Fittingly the funds will be raised through a charity ride.

It will be on the Otago Rail Trail on May 24 with options to cycle 300km, 150km or 70km.

"The goal is to raise $8000 so that way future patients at ISIS will get to have the benefits and hopefully the success that he is experiencing," Jan McAra said.

Anyone interested in taking part should email marie.roxburgh@southerndhb.govt.nz.

neil.ratley@stl.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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