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School project helps patients get back on the road

Ashland, Ky. - Eighty-seven year old Delphine Dale said she felt like she was taking her driver's test all over again.

The Ironton resident took advantage Tuesday of King's Daughters Medical Center's new rehabilitation tool that helps patients who have suffered fractures, strokes and other movement-impairing conditions practice getting into and out of a motor vehicle.

The car simulator was a cooperative project between high school students at the Russell Area Technology Center, the King's Daughters Health Foundation and KDMC's rehabilitation unit.

Dale has been hospitalized four times since March for a hip replacement, pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

"I am buying this place one month at a time," she joked.

The retired Rock Hill Elementary School teacher said she believes this device will help her prepare herself to go home soon.

"To get in the car, I would think it simulates a little practice," she said.

"I have to learn how to do a lot of things all over again."

After getting in the simulator, Dale joked that she would try not to get a speeding ticket and said she was ready to hit the road.

"I have got my hands at the 10 and two positions," she said. "I think I will go to the Trinity Center in Flatwoods to join my husband."

Dale should be able to join her husband for real soon, just in time for their 63rd wedding anniversary Aug. 31.

Michael Thompson, certified occupational therapy assistant in KDMC's Rehabilitation Unit, said the simulator was designed to be lightweight and is very mobile because it is smaller than a hospital bed. The seat height can be adjusted to simulate getting into a car, truck or SUV.

Overall, the goal is to have all patients in the 27-bed rehabilitation unit use the device before they leave the hospital, he said.

"The big thing for all of our patients is to return home," Thompson said. "This is just a continuation of what they need to do to make that transition."

In addition to providing a learning experience for the vocational students, it also saved the hospital some money. While a new simulator would have cost more than $5,000, the vocational school donated labor and materials to do the project for less than $500.

"It is a win-win situation when you can get the community involved, which is a big part of the hospital's goal, and it helped the kids at the tech center gain some valuable experience," Thompson said.

The students began the project in January with only a picture to go on, said recently retired shop teacher Ron Conley.

After working on it off and on for a couple of months, the simulator was delivered to the rehabilitation unit in June.

Working on the simulator was good experience for the students and allowed them to give something back to the community, he said.

"I tried to help out as many people as I could when I was a teacher," Conley said. "This is a worthwhile cause and you never know when you will need something like this."