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18th October 2022

Sam's Inspiring Road To Recovery

Pam & Sam

At 23 years old Sam Hensman had the world at his feet, studying to be an electrician and loving life with his mates, girlfriend and family.

Then Sam suffered what was first thought to be a migraine, but was actually severe AVM (arteriovenous malformation) – where blood vessels connecting the arteries and veins become entangled, disrupting normal blood and oxygen flow and leading to brain damage and stroke.

In the months after, Sam experienced many brain haemorrhages and seizures, with doctors saying that he would not survive.

But with his fighting attitude, his determined family and the help of other doctors and therapists – Sam has survived and is proving there is hope in a stroke recovery.

Six years later, Sam is also crediting a cutting-edge Virtual Reality tool called Add-Life with improving his mobility and mental wellbeing; while Sam’s mum Pam is grateful for the support offered by The Hospital Research Foundation Group – Stroke.

When your world changes

You could forgive Pam for being jaded from their long ordeal, but instead, her beaming smile and positivity lights up a room.

“I had so many doctors tell me he wouldn’t survive. I’ve had therapists not want to work with him,” she said.
But during every setback, she has kept fighting and trying to find the right support for her son.

“His third haemorrhage occurred while waiting for an operation to remove the AVM, and left him in a coma and he lost the ability to move on one side.

“He was in ICU for months and then contracted pneumonia, that was one of the times they told me we should let him go.

“But I asked – is Sam fighting? And he was, so there’s no way I was giving up.”

Sam’s rehab supported by VR

Following lifesaving treatment from experts at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital, Sam returned home and started rehabilitation – another challenging time with Pam struggling to find the right therapists to assist.

But they now have a team of experts from across the country delivering speech therapy, neuro-physio and neuro-pshysics; as well as at-home exercises delivered via Virtual Reality tech Add-Life, founded by entrepreneur Daish Malani.

Add-Life offers a customised exercise program for stroke and mobility recovery, using games in a Virtual Reality headset that are designed to improve fine motor skills and upper body movements.

The games are personalised to a patient’s needs and are fun, which leads to increased use and therefore improved muscle function and quality of life.

“We have an occupational therapist on our team and she’ll advise us on the skills that people need to be learning,” Daish said. “So we’ll look at a skill and make it fun so people actually want to do it.”

For example, one game encourages users to grasp a ball and throw it, another has the user watering flowers, and another to reach above your head to grab fruit from a tree – all accruing reward points.

Sam’s favourite game transports you to Venice, where you’re riding a gondola and touching lanterns!
“Each game goes for 21 minutes and incorporates breathing and relaxation, a fine motor activity, a cognitive activity, a voluntary interactive experience and a warm down,” said Daish.

“Pushing hands in front or above are the first couple of movements we teach. And it is personalised to your progress, so it will push you harder if it thinks you need it.”

Pam said Sam loved the positive experience that comes with using Add-Life each day.

“When you’re feeling frustrated and that there’s little you can do, this provides self-worth which is so important. Suddenly you can do something – it’s so uplifting!” Pam said.

“It provides a stepping stone to more things and rebuilding your independence.

“Although he now feels too confident and is doing things around the house without us knowing,” she laughed! “I need to tell him to ease up!”

Hope for the future

Pam is also grateful she has now crossed paths with The Hospital Research Foundation Group – Stroke, which is offering support for the family.

“We were really impressed with the set up at The Hospital Research Foundation Group – Stroke,” Pam said.
She said Sam also has goals for the future, hoping to study psychology.

“He wants to help other people, because he knows what it’s like.”

And given his fighter attitude, you have no doubt he’ll achieve anything!

If you or a loved one is recovering from stroke and would like to trial Add-Life, please visit www.add-life.au

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