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START service keeps retired farming couple together

Barbara Walter, Murray Walter Staff: L-r Dorothy Hosker (registered nurse), Debbie Hall(health care assistant), Raewyn Dean (charge nurse manager)

Barbara Walter, Murray Walter Staff: L-r Dorothy Hosker (registered nurse), Debbie Hall(health care assistant), Raewyn Dean (charge nurse manager)

Murray Walter’s “near fatal” stroke in June last year robbed him of clear speech, ability to swallow, all movement on his left side and the ability to walk.

Today the 78-year-old retired farmer is up on his feet and in his own home with his wife Barbara. The couple say this miraculous accomplishment is chiefly due to Waikato DHB’s Supported Transfer and Accelerated Rehabilitation Team (START).

“The seriousness of his stroke bound Murray to a hospital bed for four full months; two in Waikato Hospital and another two in Matariki Continuing Care Facility in Te Awamutu,” said Mrs Walter

“The doctors didn’t think he’d progress, but he was determined. He returned to Waikato for seven weeks rehabilitation before being discharged and referred to START,” she said.

START is an interdisciplinary 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

Mr Walter’s goal, ambitious albeit achievable, was to walk again.

“You have to think about patients’ goals as being achievable. We develop the plan with the patient and all work together – to the best of our ability – to make it happen,” START’s charge nurse manager Raewyn Dean said.

To ensure he reached this goal, START staff travelled 40 minutes each way seven days a week to visit Mr and Mrs Walter in their rural Puketotara home, 20kms south west of Te Awamutu.

“Rehabilitation in the home is paramount to what we do. It is an environment that patients are familiar with and comfortable in, so progress is better,” Mrs Dean said

The team, consisting of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, healthcare assistants and rehabilitation nurses showered Mr Walter, coached him through bed exercises, and gradually worked him up to moving his left hand and walking with a quad stick.

“By improving his function, he can be with his wife,” said registered nurse Dorothy Hosker.

“He is more mobile, so it is less work for Barbara.”

“Murray and I had one goal –to get him better. His progress would not have happened without the START team. We are so thankful we can be together in our own home,” said Mrs Walter, who spends all day every day with Murray, even during his time in hospital.

“I feel beautifully tired having lived another day with him.

“We owe so much to START. It is a wonderful programme and should be all over New Zealand,” she said.

START speak enthusiastically of their unique and vital role.

“We’re passionate about what we do. We are here to coach patients and see them recover. We set them up right so they can ‘do life’ in the long run. In this case, as in all cases, we supported Murray to do what he wanted to,” health care assistant Debbie Hall said.

The Walters say their next goal is to get Mr Walter walking up and down stairs, and later, for a laugh, on the farm’s four-wheeler.

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 the Walters speak for themselves about the programme, visit START.

ENDS

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