A new tool for therapists: duct tape

Duct tape for paralysis

- Most of us have a roll of duct tape around the house.  The flexible, strong rubber-coated tape is a mainstay for all those DIY repair jobs we have to do.  But, duct tape, has another job, at one metro-Atlanta rehabilitation hospital.  It’s helping patients dealing with paralysis.

At HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Newnan, occupational therapist Gary Baker is tied to his patient Glenda Pope.

The retired teacher and mother of 5 is 63, trying to push through what will, hopefully, be temporary full-body paralysis from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or GBS. Baker is using an unlikely tool for to Pope and his other patients: good, old-fashioned duct tape.

“You pull strip of tape and they go, 'Where do you plan on sticking that?’" says Baker.

The answer is just about everywhere.

"We will tape our body to the patient's body using duct tape,” says Baker.

This sticky, flexible silver stuff? That sells for $3.69 a roll?

Glenda Pope says she smiled when Baker pulled it out.

"I said, 'Okay, not high tech. But you've surprised me before,” she remembers.

Because of her paralysis, Pope doesn’t have good control of her core muscles that stabilize her back.  So, she can’t sit up straight.

So, tied together by a duct-taped sheet,  Baker uses his body as resistance, pulling and stretching Pope's upper body muscles back into alignment.

"I loved it, I loved it. Because I was just a-wobbling all over the place," Pope says.

And they're just getting started.  He tapes her right hand to a paddle made with more tape.

Then he wraps a frame in tape, twisting it, so it's sticky-side up, giving the paddle traction.

To strengthen her shoulders, he’s created what he calls an “active assist bow.”  It looks like a hand-shaped paddle connected to bow.

“It's basically two fiberglass flag poles, with the flags removed, and this is just splinting material, it's all wrapped in duct tape,” says Baker.

Pope pushes upward, using her shoulder muscles, and the bow resists.  It’s hard work.  By the end of her session, she’s exhausted.

Glenda Pope knows she's got a long way to go.   But she's getting there, with determination and duct tape.


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