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BGH rehab nets $100,000 Elks grant

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | July 2, 2024 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Idaho Elks Rehabilitation Center, even more people in the community will have a shot at their best life.

And what's even more impressive is that BGH will receive $100,000 each of the next two years. 

With the local lodge's support and encouragement, Michelle Tucker, Bonner General Health rehabilitation director, said the hospital is working to help patients enjoy a better quality of life.

"The patients, with already high stress and extra burdens such as time and cost after an illness or injury, they should not have to leave the community for better care, Tucker said. "Our patients in our community deserve the best therapy intervention available. Their lives matter, and their quality of life matters, too. Acquiring this equipment will help us to move forward with our vision for our neurological program."

Tucker described the effort as a partnership, with state and local Elks encouraging Bonner General officials to seek one of the larger grants. The first request was for over $1 million "because it was shoot for the stars," she said.

That request wasn't successful, nor was a second one for about $750,000. However, local and state Elks kept encouraging the Sandpoint-based hospital to keep refining its presentation and what equipment it hoped to get.

"Here we are today at $300,000 over the next three years," Tucker told those gathered in mid-June to celebrate getting the grant. "We're so excited and so grateful for this opportunity."

Funds will go toward the hospital's RT-300 project, which will allow BGH Performance Therapy Services to improve the quality of services offered to patients in the community. Like the hospital's recent purchase of an exoskeleton, the equipment will help patients immeasurably, Tucker said. 

"We have patients whose lives have been changed by using (the exoskeleton)," Tucker said. "With the RT-300, that's the next step in our neural program. With the exoskeleton, we can actually help people ambulate their gait, move, and walk, and that's amazing. With this, we get to work the upper body as well."

The upper and lower body functional stimulation bike uses pulses of electrical current to stimulate peripheral nerves to evoke contractions in weak or paralyzed muscles and create patterned muscle activity. The RT-300 software provides real-time biofeedback, data tracking, and sophisticated control algorithms that are designed for a wide range of neurological impairments, Tucker said.

Patients often see reduced muscle weakness and spasms and improved circulation, as well as increased range of motion, she said. It also facilitates muscle re-education.

An example would be a stroke patient experiencing either lower or upper body weakness, paralysis, and impaired coordination. The RT-300 equipment would help them improve strength and movement in their arms and legs in day-to-day functions such as bathing and kitchen tasks.

In combination, the equipment makes the BGH rehab program among the best in the Northwest, Tucker said.

"I believe this sets us apart in the rehab community and is very progressive and innovative," Tucker said. "We are continuing to work with the Idaho Elks Rehabilitation to establish even more ground on a bigger vision for our rehabilitation department."