In this occasion we would like to thank all the media that have recognized the importance of our story and that have shared it via their portal, printed editions or on social media. On the occasion of the end of the charity part of the neurorehabilitational therapy, our neurologist, Dr. Joško Glavić, gave an interview in which he explained to the public the functioning and the impact of these innovative Hocoma’s Armeo Spring and Armeo Pediatric devicesand tried to demonstrate the emotions and the atmosphere that were present in the last few months in the Polyclinic.
Here is the complete interview from Mister Baldo Marunčić which today was published in the weekly magazine “DuList”, and in the same you can read something about our future projects:
How did you even come in contact with the Swiss company Hocoma?
Already in 2012 I saw their devices on one international congress and since then I was regularly in contact with them. It is one of the most powerful companies in the world, in rank with Google, Apple, Intel… When few years ago I signed up for project financing from the EU fonds, I realized that our administration is not ready for such things and I gave it all up. But since I was the only one that was showing a lot of interest for a job that Hocoma is doing, they have felt that I was close to the decision of buying their device. They have offered me at the beginning of the summer to borrow me the device for three months.They’ve told me to use them in that period and earn the first part of the payment on them, and the rest that I can pay on leasing. I’ve told them that, if they’ve gave it to me as a present, I am going to give it also as a gift to the others. They didn’t understand that, but the’ve agreed to it.
That’s how you actually got to the idea of a humanitarian action?
That’s right. Taking in consideration that we didn’t want to be in media with it, but we gave the information via our Facebook profile. We wanted to reach out to people who really need that, but also to those who are avare that this kind of therapy is a “bomb” in the world and that is financially unavailable to them. Because one day of a neurorehabilitation in Switzerland that is complete and with more content, with accommodation and meals, on this devices, costs 3000 euros, and you have to pay months in advance. The estimation is that a neurorehabilitation of this tipe in Switzerland would cost at least ten thousand euros a month.
How were the reaction and the interest?
Hundreds of applications came, from Croatia, but also from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina… I have to admit that it was a pretty stressfull period. All of that had to be checked, estimated, and from all of those people choose ten candidates. At the end we have chosen sixteen patients for this neurorehabilitation. We didn’t go by local or national criteria. We didn’t look names or last names, but the diagnosis and the time when the medical issue happened. We were looking for the most challenging and difficult cases; we were led by our profession. The hardest thing was to tell the others that they didn’t pass, because for a lot of people it was the only hope. The problem was to find the accommodation in Dubrovnik during summer so they sadly had to give up.
How was it exactly in the last three months in the Polyclinic?
When we started to work it was a first for all of us. My people did go through educations, but it was a challenge. We were working from 7 a.m. till 11 p.m., there was always somebody there. It was challenging. But when we started to see the first results, our enthusiasm got much higher. It was like euphoria got created. Imagine that your patient, from whom everybody has given up, comes the first day with a helicopter, and leaves the Polyclinic in the wheelchair with his own arms. And to him, his arms are his life. And it happened in a really short time. Patients who couldn’t even hold a pencile in their hands can now normally wash their teeth or open the doors. We have spaired to some of them with a successful rehabilitation of an operation or two, which is a great success. To some of them, that besides their problem with some extremity have had a speech problem, we have sort of woken up that speech function, although we didn’t rehabilitate. A brain is really a wonder. Some patients got back to their doctors, that couldn’t believe what happened to them in the meantime and how much they’ve progressed. This neurorehabilitation has given them an additional quality of life, because they can do some usual activities again. To us they could be usual and we take them for granted, but to them they weren’t. To stand up straight while eating, to turn around in bed in order to avoid a bedsore, to scratch yourself if you’re itchy…It’s a great thing for human dignity.
What results did you have with your sixteen patients?
Exceptional, but I have to admit that I wasn’t happy that one part of people, because of some other illness or private situations, weren’t regular. So I can’t give myself an answer if they would be even better if they were more regular.
At the end of the humanitarian action you’ve received a unique present from your patients. What is it about?
Usually I don’t like to receive presents, but when I received that painting and the whole act of the delivery and the meaning of it have really touched me. Because was makes an artistic painting makes is her artist, and as such she has the value according to the status of the artist. And this painting was made with heart and with “wounded” arms of 15 “neurological artists” and for me it has a priceless value. Saying goodby from our new friends was really touching, and the painting left as a memory on the great things that we’ve made, but also as an encouragement to be even better in our job.
Will you continue with the humanitarian action?
The period that the Swiss have given me is over and after these results we couldn’t come to peace with the idea of giving back the devices, so we’ve bought them. But after so many positive experiences I’ve decided that we will, together with our regular costumers at affordable prices to everyone, always have one or two patients in our humanitarian section. Somebody that was struck by some trouble in that moment.
What is this revolutional thing that the Swiss brought?
They’ve came up with the fantastic rehabilitational method, which consists in overtaking the functions of the damaged parts by the brain because of its neuroplastic function and an amazing ability to reorganize and form new conections between the existing cells, we could call that a “spare” part of the brain. In such case, the brain sends a signal to the arm what to do in interaction with interesting videogames. The content of the games itself is pretty various and graded according to the severenes of patients condition. We’ve even had duels between patients. I think that this fun aspect of the exercise was a special motivation for our youngest, but also older patients. So, we don’t “exercise” the damaged part of the body, but the brain itself. That way we wake up the spare zones of the brain. For me as a neurologist, this concept was interesting, especially the unexplored part of the brain that takes over new functions, performs new tasks. I have investigated a lot about that, but this was still science fiction for me, that turned out in the reality as truly functional.
We are talking aobut Armeo device?
That device is revolutionary. Until recently only Switzerland, Singapure, USA, Germany and Russia had it… Except from us, no one has it in this part of Europe. And we’re talking about a region that has over 50 million habitants.
Now is probably the next step to raise avareness about the existence of the possibility for a recovery?
While we’re talking somewhere in Croatia a traffic accident or some stroke happened, or someone started to suffer a brain tumor or multiple sclerosis. Those people maybe don’t know about these devices and have accepted the fact that their future has a bad perspective. And it doesn’t. This device changes destinies. None of my patients came to me at the doctor’s instructions. I find it frustrating. Patients were looking by themselves on the internet. This is above standard of the medicine, but a doctor has to at least know that this somewhere exists and tell it to the patient. Patients have a right to know. Maybe the doctors are “eaten up” by the daily routine and because of that they don’t have time to keep track of everything that’s going on and I’m a bit bothered that all the new patients come because they’ve found by themselves for this kind of rehabilitation, and not because doctors sent them to it, although we’ve held seminars about the effects of the therapy and notified doctors in writing or via social media.
What is the difference between a classical physical therapy and this neurotherapy?
A combination of the classical physical therapy and the neurorehabilitation is actually a real hit! When only the classical physical therapy is made, and the same gets interrupted, the organism starts to neglect itself and the extremity gets back almost at the beginning of the problem. With neurorehabilitation, because of the neuroplasticity of the brain, there is no coming back, but the functions that came back stay the way there are, because it is not beind worked on the periphery, on the extremity, but on the brain. And then there is no step back.
The key question is always how much does all of that cost?
A treatment with Armeo device will be on level with one cheaper treatment of the classical physical therapy in Dubrovnik.
Do you think that it will pay off?
I don’t care, because there are a lot of things that I do in a way that is not so understandable for everyone. I’ve bought the Armeo device, because after the results that I’ve seen, I’ve told myself that, as a neurologist, I don’t have a right not to have it. My wish is, and my partners from Hocoma agree with me, to start a neurorehabilitational center in Dubrovnik. That should be the next step. Dubrovnik should live from health tourism during the whole year. These are not one day therapies, but from six months or more. To go somewhere on a therapy for six months is very expensive. Not just the treatment, but the accommodation of the patient, of parents, and many other expenses. Why wouldn’t we have that? Hocoma has also a Lokomat device that is intended for the neurorehabilitation of legs, which helps people to walk again. It is worth about 1 million Euros, and I am going to try to come to an agreement with Hocoma to get it on loan for six months. Nevertheless, a special problem is the accommodation, and that could be solved with, for example, General Hospital of Dubrovnik.
Why wouldn’t we be the best neurorehabilitational center in this part of Europe?
Did you talk about it with the remediation manager of the GH in Dubrovnik, Mr. Jerko Ferri Certić?
We did the preliminary discussions and the General Hospital is interested in it. I consider that it would be good for the country to see the interest in a public-private partnership of this kind. Because this way, the hospital would earn more money, and one part of patients would get a service of this rehabilitation for free. In case it doesn’t work out with the hospital, I’ve talked with some hotels that are willing to cooperate in the project with their accommodation, pools… Why would people go to health spa, when they can come to us? We want to be the only center of this kind, as some last hope to all those people.
Another device for the rehabilitation that you offer is Valedo Motion. What’s it about?
That Hocoma’s device, in layman’s terms, through the interaction of computer games exercises the back. When a person does the workout by himself, he is never sure if he is doing it correctly and does it really help him. Specifically, when your back gets “stiff” and when you should exercise, first you do a diagnostic of the spine. We get a dynamic position of the spine and recognize the problems. Then the patient gets a device with sensors, which he puts on his back. While he plays the game, if he is doing it right, he gets points. The better the result in the game, the exercise is of better quality. And every game is chosen and programmed according to the health issue and diagnosis. The good thing is that you can do it at home. There is also an application for tablets and smartphones, which can be connected with the device. A device with standard excercises can also be used by more people. You can lend it or buy it, but according to the suggestion of our physiotherapist.
From recently you have in your offer also an interesting project called “Let the home remain a HOME”, which primarily has to do with retired population?
The European Union is trying with various measures to establish a non-institutional care for elderly and infirm people, but still without results. Our nursing homes are full and also expensive, with long waiting lists. The infirm are often not sick and are mentally strong, and maybe there is no need for them to go to a nursing home. At the end of the day, nobody ever came back home after a nursing home. With our concept we want to enable people staying home as long as it’s possible. They like the smell of their house, their bathroom and kitchen. We don’t want to break the symbiosis between a man and his home, which happends by going to a nursing home.
We implement the project on more levels, from paying bills, going for a walk, driving, following to the store or church, and ordering meals. We’ve found doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, caregivers, lab technicians, maids… Another novelty is also a “Halo help” bracelet that they wear 24 hours a day, which gives them safety. In case something happens to them, if they fall or feel sick, they can active it and the help is coming. Let’s take as an example a seaman who leaves his house for two months, and in that period we take over the care of his parent. Every night he gets a complete report on his e-mail: the health condition, how does his parent feel, a schedule of the physiotherapist’s visit, we care about every detail. Long story short-for a lower price from the state nursing home, a man can stay home and have a full care. Nevertheless, this service can also use people with disabilities and pregnant women. Important is only that they don’t need a 24 hours-care. The plan is to hire from 10 to 20 people on the project. We’ve started with the project in October and I am really looking forward to see how it develops.