Back on the Water
For Conrad Schmidt, life on the Central Coast just wouldn't be the same if he lost the ability to drive his sporty GTO or race his sailboat.
Conrad, 61, of Ventura, faced that gloomy reality last year when he suffered a stroke that partially paralyzed his left side.
But after two months at Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital, where he spent six weeks using an assistive technology device, Conrad was soon behind the wheel of his sportscar and his boat, once again enjoying an active lifestyle. For Conrad Schmidt, life on the Central Coast just wouldn’t be the same if he lost the ability to drive his sporty GTO or race his sailboat.
An assistive technology device is defined as equipment or a system that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
Conrad’s path to recovering his motion included doing specific exercises with the help of a special device that uses electrical impulses to improve muscle function. One exercise required him to open and close his left hand, a task he found difficult to do on his own.
“If I tried it by myself, I couldn’t move it as far as I could when I was using the device,” he explained. “It allowed me to have a larger range of motion than trying to activate the muscles on my own.”
Kelly Matutina, an occupational therapist at CRH, remembers the gains Conrad made in movement, not only from using the device but also because of his positive outlook.
“Conrad constantly engaged his arm outside of therapy in functional tasks that were meaningful to him. His attitude and consistent perseverance is the main reason that Conrad has returned to living his life to the fullest. This is what occupational therapy is all about,” she said. “I’ve pushed myself to do things by setting my mind to it,” Conrad explained.
For example, he waited four months after his rehabilitation to renew his driver’s license. His goal was to drive his 2005 GTO, a car he purchased just before his stroke and didn’t want to give up.
“That car had a manual transmission and I managed to drive it again,” he beamed. “That was really important to me because I didn’t want to have to sell my car.”
Driving a stickshift isn’t all Conrad can do these days. He’s also back to sailing and participating in competitions. “I’m very pleased that I could do that again,” he said.
His can-do attitude has allowed him to improve his range of motion even a year after his stroke. It’s evident in little things he does every day.
A few months ago, Conrad needed to buy new foot-wear because he had worn out the sole in the front part of his left shoe.
“I had been dragging my foot when I walked,” he recalled. “When I bought new deck shoes, I prevented them from wearing out by thinking about picking up my toes every time I take a step.”
“Even now,” he says proudly, “I can learn to get better at things.”
Read other stories from the Winter 2010 Cottage Magazine here.