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START service takes patient from shaky to strong

START healthcare assistant Margaret Maxwell supports patient Kevin Lichtwark for a walk outdoors to help him regain balance.

START healthcare assistant Margaret Maxwell supports patient Kevin Lichtwark for a walk outdoors to help him regain balance.

Kevin Lichtwark experienced problems with his balance after undergoing coronary surgery and it left him feeling “incompetent and very down”.

Two months later, thanks to persistent support from Waikato DHB’s START team, the 77-year-old Hamilton man’s physical and emotional stability have improved “out of sight”.

START stands for Supported Transfer and Accelerated Rehabilitation Team and is a multidisciplinary group with expertise in rehabilitation. The team works with patients and their families in the patient’s own home to set rehabilitation goals and help patients to reach those goals.

In Kevin’s case, members of the START team assisted him almost every day twice a day for five weeks until his balance and confidence were restored. Kevin was so impressed with the service he hand-wrote his gratitude to START staff.

“Because of my age, I wasn’t the best at all. I was flipping all over the show. I felt very low because usually if I am going to do something, I’ll just do it,” he said.

“However, START staff walked me through it. They helped me with strength and balance exercises. They showered me. They called at night. They made sure I took my medication. All until I could get my balance back.”

Journeying the road to recovery within the comfort of his own home meant that Kevin was able to mend more quickly.

“Here at home I have my wife and I have familiarity. It prevented me from lying in hospital and thinking the worst. It was incredible – I’m sure I got better faster because of it,” he said.

START staff coached Kevin through balance exercises at his kitchen bench, and later in the six weeks when his stability improved they supported him to stroll outside in the sun.

“The exercises help to build stamina, which is important for patients both physically and emotionally,” START healthcare assistant Margaret Maxwell said.

Thanks to the START team Kevin has gone from shaky to strong in a space of time he recognises as impossible had he spent it in hospital.

“I know sometimes these teams are underappreciated, but I want to genuinely say that the START staff do a great job. My balance has improved out of sight and I am now feeling good about myself. You must keep this service going.”

The START service began operating in Hamilton in October 2011, started in Thames/Hauraki and South Waikato from 1 February, 2012 and now operates DHB wide.

For more information about the START programme and to hear Kevin speak for himself about the START programme, visit www.waikatodhb.health.nz/START


General media enquiries
Mobile: 021 671 239
Email: news@waikatodhb.health.nz

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