By VANESSA WELCH
MT. VERNON — Stroke survivor Janis Cochran has discovered video games provide more than entertainment. This is why Cochran recently donated a Nintendo Wii, a Wii Fit and a television to help stroke patients on their road to recovery at Crossroads Community Hospital Rehabilitation Services.
Cochran said the Wii video game system helps speed up patients’ recovery processes.
“The games help with balance, thinking, eye coordination and wrist movement,” Cochran said. “Now that they are here it might give patients the encouragement to work harder during therapy, and it will actually bring a little fun to their therapy sessions.”
The Wii game system includes the Wii Remote that offers more movement than a traditional game controller. Users control the action on the screen by moving the the controller in the air, mimicking the motion used to perform the action in the real world. Some patients have already started to use the Wii Remote to play virtual bowling.
“They were so enthusiastic to learn it,” Cochran said. “There were no gutter balls — they were really good.”
The Nintendo Wii Fit includes activities such as yoga and skiing. Cochran said patients stand on a rectangular mat and mimic exercises shown on-screen, which are designed to help them broaden their range of motion and gain balance.
Cochran held a Strikes for Strokes bowling fund-raiser in September to raise money for the video game purchases. After her stroke, Cochran said she came up with the fund-raiser idea due to a dream where she held an event at a bowling alley.
After searching for bowling events online, Cochran learned of a Strikes for Strokes event in Nebraska. Through research Cochran discovered how other hospitals in Chicago and Indianapolis were using video game consoles in therapy departments.
Cochran also donated equipment to CCH that has helped in her personal recovery process, including a device that enables patients to stretch their arms in various directions.
“Patients will be able to take kits with them and continue therapy at home,” Cochran said. “This provides further treatment and they can continue something they want to work harder on.”
By continuing therapy each week and keeping a positive attitude, Cochran said she has improved in the past year and has taught herself how to write and type with her left hand. Cochran has also relearned how to sew and bowl and has set a goal to bowl her former average score of 165.
“It might take two years or it might take 10 years to accomplish something — you’re not going to recover overnight,” Cochran said. “I’ve never really had a bad day that I couldn’t get through with a good day of therapy. I know I can succeed doing something there.”
Stroke patients also help one another find easier ways to accomplish complex actions, and Cochran said encouragement helps them recognize they are not alone.
Currently Cochran is working on a support group for stroke patients which she hopes to start in January.
“After having my stroke I thanked God I was alive,” Cochran said. “It left me disabled, but disabled is only a word. It makes me happy to make a difference in the lives of others. It feels like I’ve accomplished more than what I set out to do.”
For more information about the support group contact Director of Rehabilitation Services Andrea Hills at 241-8595.