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The rehab centre at Windsor Regional Hospital is showcasing a new device that's helping stroke and accident victims regain use of their hands and arms.

The Saebo System, developed a decade ago in the United States by occupational therapists, is a hit with local users.

John Humphrey began working with it in the spring and within four months noticed considerable improvement in the use of his left hand and arm. Humphrey suffered a life-threatening stroke in 1979 when he was 15. Doctors told him he'd never regain use of his left arm, and would lose function in his right as well.

The Saebo has changed everything. "Not only do I have this arm good, [the therapist] says I'm bringing this one back to life, so I've got probably one-and-a-half arms, as opposed to what they thought I would have."

Clients must buy the custom-made device for about $1000 and there is homework and training sessions costing $75 each.

'Use it, use it, use it ...' —Therapist Kris Gosselin

Therapist Kris Gosselin said the device requires serious work on the part of the patient: 45 minutes twice a day, every day but the payoff can be remarkable.

"The principle of Saebo is constant use: use it, use it, use it, and it just retrains the nervous system, the brain, on what muscles to use to do the different actions. I think it's absolutely fantastic, especially for people who have had a stroke many years ago ... it has opened the door for these people."

The equipment is not covered by OHIP, but some people can qualify for coverage through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board or private health plans. Those who want to know more about the Saebo System are invited to a free demonstration and screening at the hospital Nov. 26.