New Rehabilitation Tool At Wilcox

Jesse Pasag uses LiteGait therapy system so his patient can use a treadmill and walk greater distances | Photos courtesy Wilcox Memorial Hospital

Jesse Pasag uses LiteGait therapy system so his patient can use a treadmill and walk greater distances | Photos courtesy Wilcox Memorial Hospital

Wilcox Memorial Hospital has a new rehabilitation tool that is the first of its kind on Kauai.

LiteGait therapy system uses state-of-the-art equipment that supports patients’ body weight and helps improve their ability to walk. The patient is harnessed into the mechanical system, which lifts them, allowing them to move with greater ease on foot. It also gives them a chance to use a treadmill and travel even farther than simply walking up and down a hall. The system is safe and gives the patient a sense of comfort that leads to a greater ability to heal.

Prior to acquiring the LiteGait system, physical therapist Jesse Pasag had to literally assist a patient’s movement and ensure they remained safe — one hand always would need to be placed on the patient while the other would assist the movement of the weaker leg. Sometimes multiple therapists were required to help.

“The old way was slow and not very efficient for either the therapist and the patient,” says Pasag, who also is a clinical orthopedic specialist at Wilcox.

One of his recent success stories involves a patient who had his lower right leg amputated almost two years ago. Before using the system, the farthest the man could travel was from his bedroom to the bathroom. Now, with the harness, he can walk nearly half a mile in 15 minutes.

LiteGait works for any patient who has lost the ability to walk, typically as the result of a stroke, brain or spinal cord injury, and amputees. However, the system also is used to help patients recover faster from procedures such as knee or hip replacements. The hospital even has a Pediatric LiteGait that therapists use to assist keiki who have trouble walking or crawling because of neuromuscular problems. One little girl could not even stand before she started using the system, but with the help of the equipment, she has taken steps for the first time in her life.

LiteGait therapy system supports patients' body weight and gives them the ability to walk with greater ease

LiteGait therapy system supports patients’ body weight and gives them the ability to walk with greater ease

“Being able to help a grandfather carry his grandchild without hurting his back, to help a high school athlete return to the sport they love after knee surgery, to help a single mother of two walk again after suffering from a stroke, to help someone who lost a leg to diabetes be able to walk again using a prosthetic limb — this is what is most rewarding about my career,” says Pasag.

Kupuna have surprised him the most.

“Never have I seen a population of our elderly who are so active and so full of life,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of our kupuna in their 80s and 90s, who come to me because they want to get rid of a pain that is keeping them from gardening, walking, swimming, golfing and dancing, for example.

“It’s refreshing and definitely something that inspires me to try to live a long and healthy life.”

Though Pasag enjoys his job, it is not the profession he originally pursued.

“The profession chose me,” he says.

After graduating from University of California at Los Angeles with a degree in physiological science, he planned to enter medical school. He knew some schools required clinical or volunteer experience in the field in order to apply, so he found a position as a physical therapy technician in California. It didn’t take long, however, before he decided he wanted to be a physical therapist.

Pasag graduated from UCLA in 2007 with a doctorate in physical therapy, and moved to Kauai in 2010 with his wife Jennifer Tavares-Pasag, a graduate of Waimea High School and also a physical therapist.

He is thankful for his employment at Wilcox Memorial, and says its most positive attribute has been the staff.

“From the physical therapists and occupational therapists in our department to our support personnel (front office and technicians), it is a wonderful and fun working environment,” he says. “We all get along like one big ohana.”

The ohana includes a group of highly trained therapists, who use various approaches, including LiteGait therapy, that work best for the patient.

“As physical therapists, we would love it if we weren’t needed — that would mean everyone was living full and healthy lives free from harm, illness or injury. But should the people of Kauai need rehabilitation services, whether it is physical, occupational or speech therapy, we hope they know they will be receiving the best care at Wilcox Memorial Hospital.”

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