- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

MUNSTER, Ind. (AP) - As Laurie McCoy moved her arm up and down for the first time in years, she couldn’t help but laugh hysterically.

“I’ve never seen a giggle bicep before,” said Matt Nelis, a representative for the maker of the electronic arm brace she was trying out for the first time.

“That’s your training,” he told her husband. “Take her home and make her laugh.”

McCoy, 39, had reason to be happy. The Calumet Township woman hadn’t been able to use her right arm since suffering a massive stroke on Mother’s Day 2013, followed by a second stroke five months later. She has been rehabilitating the two years since, regaining some of her ability to walk and speak. But the arm wouldn’t budge.

Her doctor recommended the brace, which helps teach people with partially paralyzed arms how to use them again.

A year and a half later, after back-and-forths with the insurance company over footing the $32,000 bill, McCoy was finally outfitted with the device at the Center for Orthotic & Prosthetic Excellence in Munster on a recent day, becoming the first person in Northwest Indiana to use a MyoPro. The orthotic, which has been in wide use since 2010, is the only one of its kind on the market.

The brace uses electronic sensory technology to detect the patient’s muscle signaling, then assists them in making the intended movements. The hope is the brace will eventually reteach them how to properly fire their arm muscles so they’ll no longer need it.

Nelis, of device-maker Myomo, said outcomes depend on such factors as the severity of the paralysis and the person’s determination level. The latter shouldn’t be a problem for McCoy.

“There’s no stop to her,” said Dr. Revathy Ameeruddin, medical director of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Dyer and Hammond. “She will do anything possible to make her recovery complete.”

Ameeruddin said that because of McCoy’s youth she was a great candidate for the device, which can not only improve her quality of life but reduce the burden on her caregivers (who, as of now, are her husband and two teenage children). “It’s going to be a new world for her,” the physiatrist said.

So what does McCoy, a homeschooling mom and Sunday school teacher, hope to get out of the new device?

“To be able to move, be able to pick up things, but that’s all,” she said, before remembering one more thing: “And being able to scrapbook.”

Stephen McCoy, a 43-year-old truck driver, is willing to try nearly anything to get his wife back to her former self. He is doing an online fundraising campaign to get Laurie an experimental drug treatment purported to reverse the effects of stroke. However, since it’s only delivered in Florida and insurance won’t cover it, he needs to raise $16,000.

“It’s been a long road, but things like these are going to help out,” he said as he left the orthotist’s office, helping his wife, who uses a cane, back to their van.

On the recent day at COPE, McCoy tried on the new brace, which she had customized with hearts and flowers, as Nelis adjusted the settings to configure to her abilities.

“See all the signals right there. That’s the EMG sensors going crazy,” Nelis said, pointing to a computer screen showing a moving graph that resembled a polygraph test.

“That’s OK,” said McCoy, whose speech has been severely affected by her strokes.

“That’s a good thing,” he said. “That’s called biofeedback.”

COPE orthotist Brian Steinberg held her shoulder down as she tried to flex her bicep. She strained intensely, forgetting to breathe. The arm moved ever so slightly.

“See that right there,” Nelis said. “That was you.”

“That was me,” she said.

“You’re thinking about it, and it’s moving,” he said.

After less than a half hour of trying out the device, McCoy said she was tired. That’s why the company recommends patients only use it for 20 minutes a day to start.

Steinberg noted that McCoy is still in the early stages of a likely years-long process of relearning how to use her arm, and that it will take intense work with occupational therapists to get her there.

“It’s going to be a while,” her husband said.

“That’s OK,” she responded, showing the supreme patience that has gotten her to this point. “That’s OK.”

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Source: The (Munster) Times, https://bit.ly/1LuiIpZ

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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