Stroke survivor joins national walker at finish line
Glenn Woerner trains with UD physical therapist Tamara Wright.
Glenn Woerner walks across the Memorial Bridge.
Glenn Woerner, right, congratulates fellow stroke survivor Mycle Brandy.

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10:27 a.m., Dec. 9, 2010----Glenn Woerner, who participated in a stroke study at the University of Delaware earlier this year, was so pleased with his improved mobility that he was inspired to join Mycle Brandy, four-time stroke survivor, at the finish of his Walk Across America on 10-10-10.

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With a cane to support his right side, Brandy walked from his home in Orange County, Calif., to the nation's capital over an eight-month period to raise awareness about stroke and heart disease.

Woerner, who had a stroke in October 2007, walked the last leg of Brandy's trek with him in Washington, D.C., finishing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He even received a mention on Brandy's website: “We were honored to have Glenn Woerner, fellow stroke survivor, who trained everyday on his treadmill, join me at the top of the steps.”

“I walked about a mile with Mycle,” Woerner says, “and until I finished, I wasn't sure I could walk that far. When you've had a stroke, you measure the world around you in terms of 'how far away is the bathroom and can I make it there?'”

Woerner says that his participation in the FastFES project in UD's Department of Physical Therapy increased his stamina and the distance he was able to cover. “I improved to a measurable degree during the program,” he says. “My day-to-day life is now much more active.”

Funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health and led by Stuart Binder-McLeod, professor and chair of the department, and Darcy Reisman, assistant professor of physical therapy, the FastFES study is examining the effect of treadmill training and functional electrical stimulation (FES) on daily function and quality of life in people with hemiparesis after stroke.

Woerner signed up for the study because he liked the idea that it was monitored and would impose a routine on his activity. “It's a pretty aggressive schedule, with three sessions a week for 12 weeks, which is way beyond what I was doing on my own,” he says.

Woerner was randomized into the group that walked fast on the treadmill and used FES to the lower leg muscles to facilitate walking. The other two groups walked, one at a comfortable pace and the other more rapidly, but did not receive the FES treatment.

“It was fascinating to see Glenn progress as I worked with him,” says physical therapist Tamara Wright. “Starting out, he heavily relied on his cane to walk, but towards the end of the study, he was able to walk more independently. It was evident that his confidence in his physical abilities had greatly improved, and I was really proud of his accomplishment in Washington.”

“Glenn started out walking at 0.9 mph on the treadmill and required his right hand on the handrail,” Wright continues. “By the end of the 12 weeks, he was walking at 1.7 mph and no longer had to fully rely on the handrail for support. He also more than doubled the distance he could walk in six minutes.”

Woerner is quick to downplay his own progress and accomplishments. “I may be the subject of a local human interest story, but the true hero is Mycle Brandy. His story is a real triumph of mind over body.”

The UD researchers, however, think Woerner also has a story worth telling.

“It takes a long time to get valid research results that tell us whether what we're doing is working on groups of people,” says Reisman. “In the meantime, it's really nice to get anecdotal evidence that we've helped individuals.”

Article by Diane Kukich

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