Leslie Leopold, 39, can now put her shoes on with ease -- thanks to the help she has received at a new rehabilitation center.
The Columbia resident, who has limited coordination in her hand because of a ligament injury she suffered in a car accident in April, is a patient at the Rehabilitation Services Center at Howard County General Hospital.
One of the gadgets designed for Ms. Leopold at the center is a pair of elastic shoestrings that allow her to get into her shoes without untying them.
"I have my motion back, my strength back, a lot I couldn't do before," she said.
Ms. Leopold is a patient at the hospital's occupational therapy treatment program, which is one of three rehabilitation programs at the center.
At the center, Ms. Leopold's occupational therapists work with specialists in physical therapy and speech/language pathology in one unit on the first floor near the hospital's main entrance.
Hospital officials say the merger of the programs allows for better care of patients who need specialized treatment -- including patients who have had strokes or suffer from Parkinson's disease, muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis.
"It's a holistic approach to treatment," said Mary Wagner, a speech-language pathologist who directs the center's 19-member staff.
Hospital workers showed off the center Friday at an open house. Employees gave demonstrations of various innovative gadgets used to treat patients.
Among the center's new medical apparatus are rehabilitation machines that stimulate muscles electronically, a hand-held gadget that helps patients put on socks, electronic computer games controlled by voice inflection and three-dimensional eye wear to improve strength of eye muscles.
Ms. Wagner said teachers, preachers and singers -- who stress their voices -- visit the center for therapy. There, they can speak into a microphone and compare their tones on a computerized graph.
The Rehabilitation Services Center also has separate areas for children who require occupational or speech therapy.
A new second-floor satellite gym for patients recovering from surgery completes the center. Inside the large room, patients practice walking along parallel bars and exercise with light weights.
Pam Richards, 35, of Ellicott City receives physical therapy to strengthen and coordinate her muscles. On Friday, she sat on an isokinetic testing and rehabilitation machine, much like a leg extension machine, to strengthen her right leg.
A push out flexed her quadriceps. A flex inward worked her hamstrings. "It's neat," she said.
A computer hooked to the electric machine provided a printout of her motions to measure and monitor her progress.
"Instead of looking at the person as, say, an arm or leg, we look at the whole patient," said Kim Humphrey, an occupational therapist. "Here, we all work on comprehensive treatment."